In a veiled criticism of China, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoiding actions that may further complicate situation will go a long way in bringing sustained peace, reported PTI.
Singh was speaking at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, a platform comprising of the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations group, and its eight dialogue partners, including China.
Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe was among those who attended the virtual meeting, according to PTI.
Singh’s comment came amid the ongoing border standoff between India and China. Since the tensions erupted in early May, India and China have had eight rounds of Corps Commander-level talks. The discussions, however, have hit a stalemate after some initial disengagement. Both sides have made preparations to maintain thousands of troops and equipment in sub-zero conditions.
The standoff between India and China along the Line of Actual Control started with initial scuffles that led to a pitched battle – without firearms – in June that saw 20 Indian soldiers killed. Beijing, however, refused to release casualty numbers on its side. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.
Meanwhile, Singh also said that maritime security, cyber-related crimes, terrorism and threats to the rules-based order are some of the main challenges that ASEAN needs to address as a forum.
The defence minister also talked about the outlook on the Indo-Pacific, saying it underscores the impetus to cultivate strategic trust and continuously promote ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture. “The ideals of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the whole world is one family and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah – all be at peace are the core of the Indian civilisation,” he said. “Therefore, inclusivity, equality and openness are the principles underlining this concept.”
In his address, Singh also underlined the need for confronting the challenges emerging from the coronavirus pandemic. “Amongst the new challenges that have emerged, Covid-19 has changed the world and left us with many hurdles to overcome,” the defence minister said. “Unfortunately, the disruptive effect of the pandemic is still unfolding.”