India-China standoff: Rajnath Singh meets Chinese Defence Ministers in Moscow; Experts suggest India remains prepared

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Updated: September 05, 2020 4:50 PM

During the talks that began at around 9:30 pm IST on Friday in Moscow, defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Indian ambassador to Russia DB Venkatesh Varma were also present.

India-China standoff, Rajnath Singh, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Shanghai Five, BRICS, Dr S Jaishankar,ajit dhoval, Chinese Government, PLA, latest news on rajnath singhRaksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh meeting with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the side-lines of the Joint Meeting of the Heads of Defence Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO),
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) members countries, in Moscow, on Friday, September 04, 2020.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met General Wei Fenghe in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The meeting lasted for approx two hours and twenty minutes, according to the Ministry of Defence. During the talks that began at around 9:30 pm IST on Friday in Moscow, defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Indian ambassador to Russia DB Venkatesh Varma were also present. While welcoming the talks, experts opine that India needs to be on constant alert and be ready to face the possibility of the tensions escalating along the Line of Actual Control.

Experts’ Views

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU says, “If one may recall, the Shanghai Five (the precursor of the SCO) was created in 1996 with the sole purpose of resolving border conflicts between China and Central Asian states. After the disintegration of the USSR, Central Asian states inherited borders which were poorly demarcated and disputed by one other. The SCO did a remarkable job in resolving the border issues between China and bordering states of Central Asia.”

“On Friday evening (India Time), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe met separately on the border issues in Moscow. Not directly a part of the SCO framework, it was on the “sidelines” of the meeting as reported in the media. The SCO and the BRICS avoid bilateral border issues to be discussed in their multilateral frameworks. India is also opposed to third-party intervention or mediation in its border conflicts with neighbours,” says Prof Rajan Kumar.

“The fact that the two ministers decided to meet on a highly sensitive issue should be considered an important development from an institutional perspective. It only raises the relevance of the SCO. A few other high-level meetings are in the offing, and one expects that the issue of the standoff would be resolved before the final Summit meeting of the BRICS in October. Inability to do so would put a serious question mark on the credibility of both the SCO and the BRICS,” he adds.

Neither India nor China can gain anything from an escalation of the conflict. If they could maintain tranquillity for the last four decades, they definitely know ways to do so in future.

In conclusion, Prof Rajan Kumar says, “Defence Minister Singh rightly emphasized India’s commitment to non-aggression, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of conflicts. His statements also underscored the value of the SCO in tackling the issue of terrorism, radicalism and instability in Afghanistan and Gulf states.

The SCO, despite all its limitations, is the only relevant security organisation which accommodates interests of the key players in Central Asia. Indian diplomacy has recognised this fact really well.”

According to Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd), this is the first meeting at the political level between the defence ministers. And, both sides have called for restraint and resolving the boundary issue by mutual discussions. Previously, there have been discussions at diplomatic levels between Dr S Jaishankar and Mr Ajit Doval with their respective Chinese counterparts.

The Chinese delegation as per media reports have put the responsibility for the current standoff on the Indian Government. “Not an inch of China’s territory should be lost. The Chinese military has the resolve, capability and confidence to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese defence minister has been quoted as saying.

It can be clearly assessed that the Chinese Government and PLA are not deviating from their plans to only project their point of view and are in a “monologue” mood and not a “dialogue”. While the Chinese Defence Minister has stated that face-to-face meetings will help resolve the border issues, yet it’s only a measure to buy time. The political and diplomatic parleys are on the expected lines, so is the action of the PLA along the Line of Actual Control.

Expecting too much from a one-off meeting would be foolhardy, this is a long haul and the Chinese actions and reactions have to be reviewed at the global level. Let’s wait and watch as the winters set in and the ability to sustain the harsh winter.

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