NEW DELHI: Hours before the India-China bilateral meeting amid the ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the foreign ministers of the two countries — S Jaishankar and Wang Yi — will hold a trilateral luncheon meet with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Thursday.
The announcement of the trilateral was made by the Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday. Both Jaishankar and Wang are already in Moscow to attend the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting.
While the India-China bilateral is scheduled to take place at 5.30 pm IST, given the fresh stand-off on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso and the shocking firing by the PLA on Monday, the perception is the meeting could end in a stalemate. Just last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe’s meeting was inconclusive.
Though Moscow had said upfront it would not intervene between Beijing and New Delhi, it had urged the two countries to use the SCO to resolve their differences. However, experts are not optimistic of any positive outcome from the bilateral meeting.
“The SCO is a multilateral forum where no bilateral issues are brought for discussion. However, these are discussed at the sidelines, as it happened between Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart in Moscow. Russia being a close ally of both India and China, certainly would like to see a peaceful resolution of the issue, therefore Putin urging both sides to disengage and de-escalate in private cannot be ruled out. If the situation aggravates, participating countries may opt out the forum,” B R Deepak, Sinologist and Chairperson of the Centre for Chinese and South Asian Studies at JNU said.
Moscow-based political analyst Andrew Korybko echoed Deepak’s view, adding there is nothing Russia can do to bring China and India closer.
“In the event that the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers meet on the sidelines of the SCO in Moscow, it would be because India did so out of respect for its Russian hosts, just like when their Defense Ministers met last week. IN and PRC have irreconcilable stances on the LAC,” he said, adding all Moscow can do is to offer a venue.
Korybko was also of the opinion that the meeting would be overshadowed by the recent gunfire on the LAC.
“India and China have different interpretations of what happened and who is responsible for violating the bilateral agreement that hitherto prevented any firearm escalation. That escalation placed them on an irreversible trajectory of so-called decoupling, with the ‘best case’ scenario being that it’s ‘manageable’ whereas the worst case one is a repeat of the 1962 conflict,” he said.