India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Thursday evening met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow, amid heightened military tensions between the countries along the Line of Actual Control, News18 reported. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers since the build-up of border tensions in Ladakh began in May.

The talks between the leaders were held on the sidelines of a meeting of council of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Jaishankar and Wang also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a luncheon, PTI reported.

“Attended the RIC Foreign Ministers Meeting hosted by FM Lavrov in Moscow,” Jaishankar tweeted. “Thank him for his warm hospitality. India takes on the Chair of the RIC process.” The foreign ministers of the three countries meet periodically to discuss bilateral, regional and international matters under the RIC framework.

On Thursday, the three ministers emphasised their support for “inclusive multilateralism and respect for universally recognized principles of international law”. They agreed that India, Russia and China, with their strong scientific and industrial capacities, could make a major contribution towards mitigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had met his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of another SCO meeting in Moscow. While that meeting ended with both sides stressing the need to peacefully “de-escalate” the situation, tensions flared once again after shots were fired at the Line of Actual Control on September 7. This was the first confirmed use of firearms on the Line of Actual Control by troops in more than four decades, with both New Delhi and Beijing accusing each others’ soldiers of firing in the air.

On Monday, Jaishankar had said the situation along the Line of Actual Control was “very serious” and called for “very, very deep conversations” between the two sides at a political level. “This is one area my crystal ball is a little clouded,” Jaishankar said when asked about the India-China relationship.

The India-China conflict

Tensions between India and China have flared up again after the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley, when 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed.

Several rounds of military level talks have failed to break the impasse. Both sides have accused the other of fresh provocations, including allegations of soldiers crossing into each other’s territory, in the months after their deadliest standoff in decades.

On September 7, China accused India of “outrageously firing warning shots” in a new confrontation on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, describing it as as “a serious military provocation”. However, India rejected the accusations and said Chinese troops attempted to close in on Indian forward positions along the Line of Actual Control and “fired a few rounds in the air”.

Last week, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that Chinese troops engaged in “provocative action” on August 31, while discussions between ground commanders were underway. This followed by earlier moves on the intervening night of August 29 and 30, which, the Indian Army said, were “provocative” military movements to change the status quo.

On September 4, Jaishankar had suggested that a solution for the continuing tensions with China has to be found through diplomacy. The foreign minister had said it was imperative for both the countries to reach an “accommodation” not just for themselves, but the world as well.

Also read:

  1. China’s attempts to change status quo in Ladakh a violation of agreements, says Rajnath Singh
  2. In message to China, Rajnath Singh calls for ‘non-aggression, trust’ among SCO countries at key meet
  3. Beyond Modi-Xi summits: To avoid military escalation, what are India’s options?