Rajnath reaches Moscow, Jaishankar and Wang Yi meet today at RIC talks

A day after his meeting with the military brass on the situation along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reached Moscow Monday night to start a three-day visit.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, meanwhile, will be participating in a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) Tuesday.

This will be Jaishankar’s first face-to-face meeting with Chinese counterpart Wangi Yi after the Galwan Valley incident in which 20 Indian Army personnel, including the Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar, were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops on the night of June 15.

As he set out from Delhi, Rajnath Singh, in a Twitter post, said: “Leaving for Moscow on a three-day visit. The visit to Russia will give me an opportunity to hold talks on ways to further deepen the India-Russia defence and strategic partnership. I shall also be attending the 75th Victory Day Parade in Moscow.”

Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe is also likely to be present at the Moscow military parade on June 24 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Indian and Chinese troops are participating in the parade, along with contingents from other countries.

Singh will meet the Russian defence brass and is expected to review supplies of defence equipment in the coming months. During his discussions with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, he is likely to raise the issue of the delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems as well.

Incidentally, the RIC, which will bring Jaishankar and Wang Yi face-to-face, has become a platform for strategic communication during crises.

On February 27, 2019, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had travelled to Wuzhen in China for the RIC meeting. Within hours of the Balakot air strikes, she met Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and explained the Indian action.

Before that, in November 2018, the leaders of RIC countries — President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping — had met at the leaders’ level for the first time, after a gap of 12 years. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

And in December 2017, Wang Yi had travelled to India — more than three months after the Doklam crisis was resolved — in what was the first high-level visit from China to India after the border standoff. It also laid the groundwork for the informal summit in Wuhan.

Tuesday’s RIC meeting, which is being chaired by Russia, is a special session to mark the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

But the three ministers, the Ministry of External Affairs said, are “expected to discuss the current situation of the global pandemic and the challenges of global security, financial stability and RIC cooperation in that context”.

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