Defence Minister Rajnath meets Antony, Pawar
Amid border stand-offs with China, in a surprise move, India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh convened a meeting with former Defence Ministers A K Antony and Sharad Pawar. This meeting is somewhat a rarest of the rare in Indian scenario when Defence Minister meeting his predecessors in presence of top brass of Army. This meeting came a day after when Foreign Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the sideline of a conclave of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO).
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General M M Naravane apprised Antony and Pawar about all the aspects related to the current dispute at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. Antony and Pawar were also briefed about the operational preparedness of the armed forces to meet with any challenge, said top Indian Defence officials.
The ruling BJP Government never engaged with Opposition leaders on many issues and all of sudden engaging two senior Opposition leaders who handled the Defence Ministry in previous regimes has created a buzz in India.
Parliament Session is starting from Monday and Opposition has already declared that they will want to debate on the more than a year simmering troubles with China. Many questions have come up as to why Defence Minister Rajanth Singh met former Defence Ministers and appraised border issues with China. The ruling BJP Government never engaged with Opposition leaders on many issues and all of sudden engaging two senior Opposition leaders who handled the Defence Ministry in previous regimes has created a buzz in India.
The Foreign Ministers S Jaishankar and Wang Yi also agreed to hold the 12th round of Corps Commander parleys as soon as possible. The 11th round was held in the first week of April. Referring to the tension at the LAC, Jaishankar had also said”…It was visibly impacting the relationship in a negative manner.” He pointed out that the successful disengagement in the Pangong lake area in late February this year had created conditions for resolving the remaining issues. It was expected that the Chinese side would work with India towards this objective, but the situation in the remaining areas is still unresolved, Jaishankar said.
As of now, more than one lakh troops from both sides are engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation at three friction points including the Hot Springs, Gogra, and the Depsang Valley.
As China is going ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with some countries including Pakistan, India on Friday said promoting connectivity is an act of trust and must conform to laws besides respecting sovereignty. Making this point in his address, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar did not name China (Like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who always shy away from naming China) and said no serious connectivity initiative can ever be a one-way street and that the real issues are of “mindsets, not of disputes” as blocking connectivity in practice while professing support in principle benefits no one.
Participating in an international conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Jaishankar said building connectivity is an act of trust and it must, at the minimum, conform to laid down laws as respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity are the most basic principles of international relations. Refraining from mentioning China, he said connectivity efforts must be based on economic viability and financial responsibility and they should not create debt burdens, seen as an oblique reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). His remarks came from the backdrop of several countries criticizing the BRI project as Chinese financing has resulted in rising debt in several countries where infrastructure projects under the mega initiative are being implemented.
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