New Delhi: When Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh raised the issue of the Ladakh stand-off and the need for sensitive and responsive partners at Monday’s 2+2 summit with Russia, it was to send Moscow a clear message about the activities of its friend China, ThePrint has learnt.
India and Russia’s maiden 2+2 dialogue comes at a time when New Delhi’s ties with Washington are on an upswing while its oldest ally — Moscow — gets closer to Beijing.
Some observers have described the current ties between Russia and China as being closer than they have ever been.
While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russian-Chinese “foreign policy interaction remains a vital factor in global affairs”, his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi has reportedly said the relationship is better than an alliance.
At 2+2, Rajnath sought to highlight the ongoing border tensions with China at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, and told Russia that India’s defence challenges are “legitimate, real, immediate”. Hence, he added, India seeks partners who are “sensitive and responsive to expectations and requirements”.
“The pandemic, the extraordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and the completely unprovoked
aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown up several challenges,” Singh said without naming China.
He added that India is confident of overcoming these challenges with its strong political will and inherent capability of its people.
Referring to Rajnath’s address, official sources said he has sought to clearly tell his Russian counterpart that India values its relationship with Russia and also expects Moscow to stand by it in crisis.
This was also an attempt by India to tell Russia what its friend China was up to and how it is causing challenges to another friend — India, the sources added.
Sources said the emerging challenges India is confronted with — and the country’s enhanced requirement for closer military and military-technical cooperation with Russia — were discussed during Rajnath’s bilateral meeting with the Russian Defence Minister earlier in the day.
They said Rajnath had expressed “hope” that Russia will “remain a major partner for India in these changing circumstances”.
Besides Rajnath, the dialogue Monday was attended by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Russian Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov.
Rajnath described Russia as a “long-standing special and privileged strategic partner”, looking to allay Russian apprehensions about increasing cooperation between New Delhi and Washington.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)