NEW DELHI: India and China will look to pull back from the brink of a military conflict in a likely meeting between foreign minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the margins of SCO in Moscow Thursday. While the Chinese foreign ministry didn’t confirm the meeting in its press briefing, despite being repeatedly asked about it, Chinese sources here said it was expected, even if there was “no confirmed information”.
There was not much to inspire confidence though about the overall situation with Chinese sources Wednesday repeating PLA claims that Indian soldiers “provoked” the Chinese by crossing LAC in the southern bank area of Pangong Tso and opening fire. Indian officials here didn’t hazard any guess about the outcome of the meeting on Thursday.
Jaishankar will also join Wang and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for a luncheon meeting before the proposed bilateral with Wang.
The trilateral meeting was first announced by the Chinese foreign ministry and later confirmed by Indian and Russian diplomatic sources. While Russia had said this week that it will encourage any effort for dialogue between India and China, official sources said there was no question of Moscow mediating in the eastern Ladakh border standoff.
“RIC (Russia-India-China) foreign ministers even in the past have had separate meetings on the margins of multilateral fora like BRICS and SCO,” said a government source. While bilateral disputes can’t be raised at SCO, diplomatic sources said one of the aims of the Eurasian group is to promote “good neighborly ties” between the member-states and the platform can always be used to build mutual trust between them. As the host nation, Russia had the main role in organising the meeting.
The trilateral could help break the ice ahead of what will be the first in-person bilateral meeting between Jaishankar and Wang after the ongoing military standoff was reported in May. Jaishankar is likely to insist on China restoring the pre-April status quo at LAC and on early and complete disengagement by implementing the understandings arrived at in the meetings of the senior commanders since June 6. The government has been trying to drive home the point that the behaviour of the Chinese troops, which led to another flare-up in the southern bank area of Pangong Tso this week, will seriously damage bilateral ties.
Before thinking in terms of a breakthrough though, the 2 leaders will have to first address the situation that led to, as the Indian army said, shots being fired at LAC on Monday for the first time in 45 years. India has strongly denied claims that Indian soldiers crossed the LAC.
The situation at Pangong seemed to have changed recently with Indian soldiers taking control of strategic peaks on the southern bank. The PLA has protested bitterly what government sources have described as “readjustment” in deployment of Indian troops in the area and Wang is likely to raise the same in the meeting.