Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday highlighted the ongoing standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh at the maiden 2+2 ministerial dialogue with Russia, stating that “completely unprovoked aggression” on the northern borders since early summer of 2020 has thrown in several challenges.
Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held talks with their Russian counterparts Sergey Shoigu and Sergey Lavrov, respectively, during the dialogue.
Without naming China, Singh, in his opening remarks, said, “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 in several challenges.”
“India is confident of overcoming these challenges with its strong political will and inherent capability of its people. Recognising that its development needs are colossal and that its defence challenges are legitimate, real and immediate, India seeks partners who are sensitive and responsive to India’s expectations and requirements,” he said.
He described the first 2+2 ministerial-level dialogue between India and Russia as a historic meeting between two special and privileged strategic partners.
The Defence Minister said the emerging challenges that India is confronted with and the enhanced requirement of India for closer military and military-technical cooperation with Russia were discussed during his meeting with Russian counterpart earlier in the day.
India and Russia signed four different pacts in the field of defence at the end of the 20th meeting of India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military & Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) on Monday, including a contract for procurement of over six lakh AK-203 assault rifles.
The Defence Minister said that despite all these challenges, India-Russia defence engagements progressed in an unprecedented manner in recent times. He spoke about his visits twice to Moscow and once to Dushanbe to participate in the victory celebrations of the the Great Patriotic War and in two rounds of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting.
He further added that Indian officers and soldiers not only marched shoulder to shoulder with the Russian troops in the honour of those who died in World War II, but also participated in a substantial manner in major exercises and activities undertaken at Russia’s initiative.
“From Ministry of Defence, we have urged greater military-technical collaboration, advanced research, co-development and co-production of defence equipment leading to self-reliance of India. Separately, we proposed greater engagements in Central Asia and the Indian Ocean region,” he said.