Starting this week, to give a push to strategic partnership to East Asian countries, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Mongolia for three days (Sept 5-7, 2022). From there he will travel to Japan for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and will be joined by external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar (Sept 8-9, 2022). This is the first ever visit by a defence minister of India visiting Mongolia.
Significance of the visit: Expert view of Defence Analyst
“Strategic engagement with Japan has grown to a meaningful level. And now clubbing Mongolia with the forthcoming visit to Japan is indicative of a renewed shift in Indian stance to engage with China’s neighbours,” opines Maj Gen Ashok Kumar, VSM (Retd).
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, the Kargil war veteran and defence analyst says, “This visit is first of its kind and assumes special significance because it is taking place when China has enhanced its military activities around Taiwan. Not only this, the LAC standoff in Eastern Ladakh is getting murkier wherein air violations have also been observed. Not only this, China has deployed surveillance radar close to Finger 8 on the Northern bank of Pangong Tso in addition to constructing the bridge across the lake.”
More about Mongolia & India
It is a landlocked country sharing its borders only with two countries in the world – with Russia in the North and China in the South. The length of land border between China and Mongolia is close to 4600 kms with border conflict situation prevalent between Inner Mongolia and China which last flared up in December 2015. It was this very year when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Mongolia in May 2015, the first by any Indian PM. India had signalled a renewed interest in Mongolia which was followed by a substantial line of credit to this important country.
Importance of the visit to Mongolia
“While China has a much longer border with Mongolia, (close to 4600 kms), than it shares with India (3500 kms), this can be leveraged with enhanced relationship with Mongolia to ensure that a new and substantial pain point is felt by China on its Northern border which has historic animosity between the two nations. Though apparently stable at the moment, the undercurrents can be advantageous to India with the current visit of the Indian defence minister. The statement of Indian EAM that state of borders will decide the state of bilateral relationship with China has to be taken to a new level with such engagements,” Maj Gen Ashok Kumar adds.
The landlocked status of Mongolia
“Mongolia relies heavily on Russia and China. These are two countries with which it shares its borders, distance with India and need of huge investment remains a challenge. But with the support of South Korea and Japan, India could assist more. Combining the visit of Mongolia and Japan could bridge that gap,” the Indian Army veteran states.
Taiwan-China tension & India China Standoff
In his opinion, “The conflict situation in Ladakh with India and with Taiwan needs the relationship with Mongolia to be upgraded to a full spectrum strategic partnership. If air landing and refuelling facilities could be agreed, it will shift the balance of power to a new level in India’s favour.”
Agenda in Mongolia
The focus of the visit by the Indian defence minister to Mongolia is to deepen defence cooperation and strategic partnership.
The minister will hold bilateral meetings with his Mongolian counterpart Lt Gen Saikhanbayar. He will later call on the top leadership of the country President of Mongolia, U Khurelsukh and Chairman of the State Great Khural of Mongolia, G Zandanshatar. And the two sides will explore new avenues to further expand the existing bilateral military ties.
According to an official statement of the Ministry of Defence, defence is the key pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries. And the ties between the two sides are expanding over a period of time including military to military exchanges, bilateral military drills, capacity building and Joint Working Group meetings.