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Why SCO Summit 2020 Could Be ‘Make Or Break’ For India-China Relations?

With simmering tensions between neighbors India and China unlikely to deescalate anytime soon, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Moscow as part of his participation in this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meet couldn’t have come soon enough.

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Ever since June 15’s deadly skirmish between the military forces of the two nations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh which claimed the lives of 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers, repeated dialogues have taken place between senior military officials of the two nations to blow off steam, but to no avail.

Despite promising talks over video conference between diplomats of both Beijing and New Delhi, to resolve the “outstanding issues” for the complete mutual withdrawal of the front-line troops from the de facto boundary, the People Liberation Army (PLA)’s refusal to act according to plan has left Indian officials frustrated.

SCO-summit-2017_L2 | By Kremlin.ru (cropped). | Jakob Reimann | Flickr
SCO-summit-2017. By Kremlin.ru

Now,  September’s 2020 SCO Summit may provide a common ground for both Rajanth Singh and his Chinese counterpart to shed their weaponry at the door, and engage in productive peaceful discussions, in what could be a make or break period for their faltering diplomatic ties, which currently hang by a thread.

The SCO meeting which was scheduled to be held in July, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will see Singh make a second visit to Moscow in the space of two months, having participated in the Victory Day parade on June 24.

And, Russia, whose foreign ministry officials will hold talks with Singh, might act as an unlikely mediator between the two countries on their disengagement process along the LAC.

But if Russia were to fail in their attempts to diffuse tensions between the two using the diplomacy road, Beijing and New Delhi might just have to show military resolve if push came to shove.

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This is according to India’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, who recently stated that India could be forced to exercise its military power in order to shun off Chinese advances at the border.

“The whole of government approach is adopted to peacefully resolve any such activity and prevent intrusions. Defense services always remain prepared for military actions should all efforts to restore status quo along the LAC do not succeed” said Rawat.

However, Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, while emphasizing on China’s need to honor all agreements to solve the ‘serious’ crisis at hand, played down all the military talk, stating that the two countries must resolve their issues diplomatically.

Jaishankar, who will also be flying off to Moscow for the SCO meet alongside Rajnath, said –  “I am not minimizing either the seriousness or the complex nature of the current situation. Naturally, we have to do what it takes to secure our borders. As you know, we are talking to the Chinese both through military channels and diplomatic ones. In fact, they work in tandem,”

Going in sync with Jaishankar’s comments, Spokesperson of China’s Defence Ministry Colonel Wu Qian, also urged the need for the LAC issue to be sorted out peacefully.

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“Bearing in mind the big picture of bilateral ties and putting the border issue in an appropriate position in this big picture, India and China need to avoid misjudgment, keep divergences from escalating into disputes, and take concrete steps to bring bilateral relations back to the right track of normal development,” said Wu.

The BRICS and SCO summits will be held in St Petersburg, where 13,000 troops from around 20 countries including eight members of the SCO. The summit will see troops from India, China and Pakistani troops participate in a multilateral tri-services drill, called ‘Exercise Kavkaz 20’, which will be in the Astrakhan region of southern Russia from September 15 to September 27.

By: Mansij Asthana

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