Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ministerial meeting in Uzbekistan today, which will also be attended by his counterparts from Pakistan and China. However, Singh is unlikely to engage either of the two on the sidelines for bilateral talks.
The SCO defence ministers’ meeting would deliberate on terrorism and global security concerns in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the Afghanistan crises. Apart from India, China and Pakistan, ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan will also participate in the upcoming meet. The defence ministers are expected to release a joint communique after the meeting.
Neither India nor China has confirmed whether a bilateral meeting will take place between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and China’s Wei Fenghe amid the military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
Rajnath Singh and Wei Fenghe held a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the SCO defence ministers’ conclave in Moscow in September 2020, a few months after the tensions between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA started in the Galwan Valley.
India has repeatedly called out China for the LAC standoff in eastern Ladakh since May 2020, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar even saying that the ties between the two Asian tigers were going through an “extremely difficult phase” due to the violation of border understanding by Beijing.
Rajnath Singh meets counterparts in Tashkent
On Tuesday, Rajnath Singh held separate bilateral talks with his Uzbek, Kazakh and Belarusian counterparts on the first day of his three-day visit to Tashkent. This is the defence minister’s second visit to the Uzbek capital in three years. During his previous visit in November of 2019, Singh had signed a series of MOUs on training and capacity building between institutes of higher military learning in India and Uzbekistan.
India had also opened a concessional line of credit of USD 40 million for the procurement of goods and services by Uzbekistan from India. In the same month, the armies of the two countries co0nducted joint exercise “Dustlik 2019” at Chirchiq Training Area near Tashkent.