NEW DELHI: In the first high-level face-to-face meeting since the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh became volatile in early May, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe in Moscow on Friday to resolve the stand-off.
Earlier political interactions were over telephone, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval speaking to their counterparts separately. At the time of going to press, there was no clarity on the outcome of Friday’s talks though it went on for close to two-and-a-half hours. But hours earlier, Singh set the tone for the bilateral dialogue by emphasising that peace in the region demands a climate of trust, cooperation and non-aggression.
He was addressing the combined meeting of Defence Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Collective Security Treaty Organisation and Commonwealth of Independent States. “Peaceful, stable and secure region of SCO member states — which is home to over 40% of global population, demands a climate of trust and cooperation, non-aggression, respect for international rules and norms, sensitivity to each other’s interest and peaceful resolution of differences,” he said. Wei was present during the address.
In Delhi, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said it will not be business as usual with China until the LAC situation is peaceful, adding the situation is “unprecedented”. “We have lost for the first time lives of soldiers which has not happened in the last 40 years....It cannot be business as usual with China unless there is peace at the border.
The present India-China situation is the most serious challenge and India remains committed to its territorial integrity,” Shringla said during his address in a webinar.In Ladakh, Army Chief General M M Naravane described the situation as tense. “The situation along the LAC is tense. We have undertaken precautionary deployment in some areas. The troops are prepared for all contingencies.”
Soldiers have high morale, in good health: Army chief
General Naravane said the nation can count on us. “It was very satisfying to see our soldiers and local commanders have high morale and in good health. It gives me confidence that they are well prepared to safe guard the territorial integrity of our nation,” Naravane said. He added: “Over the last three months, both sides have been engaged in resolving the tension.
Military and diplomatic channels are functioning. We will continue to utilise all existing mechanisms to reduce the tension and to ensure that the status quo is not unilaterally changed.” The developments come days ahead of a likely meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers’ meet in Moscow on September 10.
The meeting between the two leaders was not on the agenda earlier, but sources said it was scheduled after the Chinese side requested for it. The meeting will be second time that the two foreign ministers share the stage after the latest flare up on the Pangong Tso in Ladakh after both Jaishankar and Yi virtually participated in the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday.
Dialogue is the only way forward: Shringla
Addressing a webinar in Delhi, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said “There has been amassing of troops. Both sides have been engaged through diplomatic and military channels. Dialogue is the only way forward and we are open to communication.”