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Chinese, Russian defence ministers to attend SCO meet in Delhi

Apr 23, 2023 10:15 AM IST

Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu and Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu are expected to hold bilateral meetings with Rajnath Singh on April 27

The Chinese and Russian defence ministers have confirmed their participation in an upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting to be held in Delhi on April 27-28, officials familiar with the development said on Sunday.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu in Moscow on April 18. (AFP)

Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu and Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu are expected to hold bilateral meetings with their Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on April 27, while the main SCO defence ministers’ meeting will be held a day later, the officials said asking not to be named.

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India is set to host the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in May. These meetings will culminate in the SCO Summit to be held in July - the first time India will host the event since joining the grouping in 2017. SCO includes eight member states --- India, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Li’s visit to New Delhi for the SCO defence ministers’ meeting comes at a time when the border row between India and China in eastern Ladakh is set to enter its fourth year in early May. Despite four rounds of disengagement from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Gogra (PP-17A) and Hot Springs (PP-15), the Indian and Chinese armies still have more than 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.

The Indian and Chinese armies have held 17 rounds of talks so far, but problems at Depsang in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in Demchok sector are still on the negotiating table.

Li’s visit to India is the first visit by a Chinese defence minister after the June 2020 Galwan clash that derailed bilateral ties. Twenty Indian soldiers killed in the seven-hour deadly conflict near Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan Valley. According to India’s assessment, PLA’s casualties were twice as many as Indian Army’s though Beijing officially claimed that only four Chinese soldiers were killed.

On April 19, Singh had expressed confidence in the Indian Army to handle any contingency along the country’s border with China even as he said talks would continue for peaceful resolution of the lingering row in the Ladakh sector, and disengagement and de-escalation were the best way forward.

Shoigu will be visiting India for the first time after the Russia-Ukraine crisis erupted last year. The complications stemming from the wide-ranging sanctions slapped on Russia by the US and its allies on the back of the war in Ukraine have posed new challenges for the India-Russia defence relationship, put India’s military preparedness to the test, and assigned new urgency to reduce dependence on imported military hardware to stay battle-ready.

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