Defence Minister Rajnath Singh leaves for Russia to attend key SCO meet, no meeting scheduled with his Chinese counterpart

New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is not likely to meet his Chinese counterpart during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting scheduled to be held in Russia, sources said on Wednesday.

Singh left for Russia on a 3-day visit today to attend crucial meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu on further boosting bilateral defence cooperation.

The defence ministers of all eight SCO member nations are expected to deliberate on regional security challenges like terrorism and extremism and ways to deal with them “collectively” in Moscow on Friday. The meeting is taking place under the shadow of a fierce border row between India and China, both members of the influential bloc.

Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe and Pakistan’s Pervez Khattak are also expected to attend the SCO meeting.

Singh’s Russia visit comes at a time when a meeting of the brigade commander of the Indian Army with his Chinese counterpart is currently underway in Chushul/Moldo to discuss issues related to the situation on the southern bank of Pangong lake.

This comes after the Indian Army thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.

On Tuesday, brigade commander level talks were held as well. The two sides held talks for around six hours on Monday as well but no concrete outcome emerged from the engagement. In the last three days, the Chinese Army has made three attempts to transgress into Indian areas on the southern bank of Pangong lake in Ladakh.

“On the night of August 29/30, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo,” Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand had said in a statement on Monday.

Indian security forces on Tuesday foiled an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in the general area of Chumar in Eastern Ladakh, sources said.

While the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is now very tense. India has said that China again engaged in “provocative action” and termed the PLA bid a reflection of “complete disregard” to bilateral understandings.

Following the first Chinese attempt, the Indian Army significantly strengthened its presence on a number of “strategic heights” around the Pangong lake besides further bolstering its presence in the area.

A battalion of the Special Frontier Force was also deployed in the area. Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane also reportedly reviewed the overall situation in eastern Ladakh at a high-level meeting in the Army headquarters.

The sources said the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also been told to enhance its surveillance on increasing Chinese air activities along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

The satellite images show that China has deployed J-20 long-range fighter jets and several other key assets in strategically located Hotan airbase which is around 310 kms from eastern Ladakh.

In the last three months, the IAF deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft in the key frontier air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC.

India and China are engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including Finger area, Galwan Valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala.

The talks between the two sides have been going on for the last three months including five Lieutenant general-level talks but have failed to yield any results, so far.