Amid border tensions between India and China, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar is set to join his Chinese and Russian counterparts at a virtual meeting of the three nations on Tuesday (June 22), though the border standoff is unlikely to be taken up at the trilateral conference.
The foreign ministers’ meeting comes a week after the hand-to-hand clashes with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the confrontation, the biggest ever between the two sides after a gap of 45 years.
As the June 15 incident triggered fears of a fresh confrontation between troops of the two Asian neighbours, Russia is learnt to have reached out to both the countries, urging them to resolve the border dispute through talks.
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People familiar with the matter said that New Delhi was initially reluctant to join the Russia-India-China trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting but had agreed to participate in it following a request from Moscow, the host of the conference.
Interestingly, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday left for Russia on a three-day visit to attend a military parade in Moscow on June 24 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of victory of the Russian people in the second world war. Officials said he will have a series of meetings with top Russian military brass. A senior Chinese leader is also expected to be in Moscow to attend the parade.
In a telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on June 17, Jaishankar called the clashes a “premeditated” action by Chinese PLA and said it will have a “serious impact” on the bilateral relationship.
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Foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday confirmed the minister’s participation at the RIC meeting. He said that the meet will deliberate on the coronavirus pandemic as well as issues relating to challenges to global security and financial stability.
However, it is unlikely that the the border standoff between India and China will figure in the meeting as bilateral issues are usually not discussed under the trilateral format, said sources, citing convention.
“It will be a good opportunity for the three countries to come together and discuss regional issues in order to synchronise our views to contribute to support regional stability,” a senior diplomat said last week on the condition of anonymity.
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Russia has already said that India and China should resolve the border dispute through talks and that a “constructive” relationship between the two countries was important for regional stability.
The three foreign ministers are also expected to deliberate extensively on the evolving political situation in Afghanistan after the US inked a peace deal with Taliban in February. The deal provided for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, effectively drawing the curtain on Washington’s 18-year war in the country.
The meeting of the RIC foreign ministers is also expected to delve into the key connectivity projects in the region, including the implementation of the 7,200 km-long International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), linking India, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia with Europe.
(With inputs from agencies)