New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will travel to Uzbekistan Tuesday to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, which is likely to be attended by his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe. He will be travelling from Tuesday till Thursday (23-25 August).
Sources in the defence and security establishment said while no bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart has been officially scheduled, nothing can be ruled out as of now.
The SCO meet is a precursor to the SCO Summit scheduled for next month, which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
If the Chinese president travels to Uzbekistan, this would be the first in-person meeting between Modi and Xi, following the standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.
Talking about Singh’s visit, sources said that India has not made any request for a specific bilateral get-together during the SCO meeting but is open to meeting all. The sources also said the only bilateral meeting that has been scheduled is with Singh’s Uzbekistan counterpart, Lt General Nizamovich.
It was not yet clear whether Wei will be attending the meeting in person or virtually but indications are that he will be traveling to Uzbekistan.
Will SCO break impasse between India-China?
So far, India and China have carried out 16 rounds of Corps Commander level talks to resolve the issue. The last meeting that was held on 17 July failed to break the impasse that had crept in after initial disengagement at some major friction points like the Pangong Tso and Galwan valley.
Rajnath and Wei had for the first time met in 2020 at the SCO meet in Russia, after which there was forward movement in military talks. At the time, the Chinese had requested a meeting with Singh and it lasted for two hours and 20 minutes.
However, during last year’s meeting, there was no bilateral engagement between India and China on a formal basis.
The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, is an eight-member economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest trans regional international organisations. India became its permanent member in 2017 along with Pakistan.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
India has shown keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
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