The meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States is being held in Moscow, Russia from the 9th to the 10th. In the eyes of many Foreign media, the (meeting of the) two “co-stars” is more worthy of attention than this multilateral meeting – the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar. According to Indian sources, Jaishankar may meet with Wang Yi on the 10th. This will be the first face-to-face meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries since the standoff on the line of actual control in the Western section of the Sino-Indian border in May. At the regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China on the 9th, spokesman Zhao Lijian did not confirm the news of the meeting even in the face of continuous questioning by Indian journalists, but only said that during the meeting, Wang Yi would attend the luncheon of the Chinese, Russian and Indian Foreign Ministers. The situation on the Sino-Indian border continues to be tense. In particular, the Indian army has fired shots threatening Chinese patrols a few days ago, breaking the 45-year understanding between the two sides of not firing at the border, making the situation more dangerous and unpredictable and opening a Pandora’s box. Before setting off, Jaishankar said that the current situation is “very serious” and requires a “very, very in-depth dialogue” at the political level. Analysts warn that the current small miscalculations may lead to “big mistakes”. Can the Moscow meeting ease tensions on the Sino-Indian border? In any case, it is clear that to reduce the risk of miscalculation, India must reduce the urge to act recklessly on the front line.
Indian reporters continue to ask “how the meeting will take place”
“There is no doubt that the main focus will be on the two largest participants in the organization – China and India,” This was the comment of the Russian newspaper Kommersant while covering the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO member states in Moscow on 9-10. According to the article, Indian diplomatic sources said that the Chinese and Indian Foreign ministers are likely to hold bilateral talks in Moscow. While this meeting is unlikely to resolve all conflicts, it could at least consolidate the atmosphere of dialogue between the two sides. The agenda of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting includes issues such as information security, counter-terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking, but the focus of attention is currently on a possible meeting between the Chinese and Indian Foreign Ministers, according to the Russian Independent. The two sides are expected to find ways to ease the border dispute. Many Indian experts hope that Russia will play an active role as a mediator in resolving the Sino-Indian conflict.
The Times of India reported that although Russia denies that it will mediate on the Sino-Indian border standoff, Russian Minister Babushkin said on Tuesday that Russia “encourages” China and India to “seize every opportunity and make every effort” to engage in dialogue to resolve bilateral differences. He also said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization itself does not participate in any bilateral disputes, but it can serve as a platform to help countries concerned build mutual trust and expand cooperation, and find a point of convergence.
From the continuous questioning of Indian journalists at the regular press conference of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the afternoon of the 9th, it can be seen that Indian public opinion is concerned about whether the Foreign Ministers of the two countries will be holding bilateral meetings in Moscow. Zhao Lijian first introduced that during this meeting, Wang Yi will exchange views with Foreign Ministers of other member states of the SCO on cooperation in various fields and major international and regional issues under the new situation of the corona pneumonia epidemic. Wang Yi will also hold bilateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of the participating member states and attend the luncheon of the Chinese, Russian and Indian Foreign Ministers. Subsequently, a reporter from India’s Prasar Bharati and a reporter from the Press Trust of India successively asked questions such as “Will the Foreign Ministers of the two countries hold a bilateral meeting during this period?” “Do we take it that this includes the meeting of the Chinese and Indian Foreign Ministers?” In this regard, Zhao Lijian said, “If there is news, we will release it in time”.
Prior to this, a number of Indian media had reported on the possible meeting of the Chinese and Indian Foreign Ministers. India’s “First Post” stated that Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar will meet with Wang Yi when attending the Shanghai Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Moscow on the 10th. Jaishankar said on Monday that the situation in the eastern part of the “Ladakh region” is “very serious” and requires “very, very in-depth dialogue” between the two sides at the political level. The Hindustan Times said on the 9th that this will be the first face-to-face meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries since the border standoff in May. On the eve of the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, a new round of confrontation between the Indian and Chinese forces has made the situation more complicated. The two spoke on the phone on June 17, when a fatal clash in the Galwan Valley had just occurred. The article also quoted Rajiv Bhatia, an Indian Foreign policy researcher, as saying: “No one expects a miracle in the Moscow dialogue, but everyone has some hope over it.”
India’s “Tribune” stated that at a time when the border situation is worrying, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security held a meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence on Tuesday night to assess the two talks with China. Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met with the Chinese Defense Minister last week, and Jaishankar is scheduled to meet with Wang Yi on Thursday. The Cabinet Security Committee was chaired by Prime Minister Modi, Rajnath Singh, Interior Minister Amit Shah and other senior security officials attended.
“Opportunism” in India
On September 4, the Chinese and Indian Defense Ministers held a bilateral meeting while attending the meeting in Moscow. However, on the 7th, the Indian army illegally crossed the line and threatened the negotiating Chinese patrols with a provocation, leading to an escalation in the situation again. If the Foreign Ministers of the two countries meet in Moscow, how much can they ease the situation? The Hindu newspaper stated that the challenges of the meeting were further amplified by multiple factors. For example, the two sides broke the 45-year agreement and understanding of “no fire at the border” and accused each other of “firing the first shot.” According to The Print website in India, few people in New Delhi expect a breakthrough, but India must continue its dialogue with China.
Qian Feng, director of the Research Department of the National Institute of Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao reporter on the 9th that if the Foreign Ministers of the two countries meet, it is expected that both sides will elaborate on their respective positions and concerns. Due to the relatively large differences between the two sides on the matter, they may to some extent say their own thing. However, the two sides will definitely reiterate their consensus and emphasize the settlement of their differences through peaceful means and through consultation and dialogue, which will greatly help ease the current tension on the border between the two countries.
India obviously does not want the situation to get out of control. “Indian Express” said on the 9th that when the Foreign Ministers of India and China are about to meet in Moscow, one day after the first shooting incident in 45 years near the line of control between the two countries, New Delhi and Beijing are using diplomatic hotlines to ease tensions. According to the “Indian Express”, diplomats in New Delhi and Beijing have been in contact after the “first shots were fired”. The report also said that New Delhi is aware of the fact that Beijing is very angry at the series of “preemptive” measures taken by the Indian army along the Line of Actual Control on the South bank of Pangong Lake since August 29.
The so-called “preemptive” measures have exposed the unreasonable provocation of the Indian side. In an article of the 9th titled “Confrontation on the Line of Actual Control: India Now Holds Some Solid Bargaining Chips” The Times of India nakedly stated that the Indian army has occupied the heights on the south bank of Pangong Lake In the week since August 29, and that India therefore has some solid bargaining chips in the difficult negotiations with China. “The Indian Army took actions that surprised the PLA and subtly changed the situation before the talks.”
It is precisely because of the lack of trust in the Indian narrative and the violation of the agreements that the “disengagement” of the front-line forces reached between the two sides cannot be carried out smoothly. On the contrary, it has further increased regional tensions. Reuters reported on the 9th that Chinese and Indian forces continued to confront each other in the Pangong Lake area on Wednesday, only a few hundred meters away from each other. An anonymous Indian official said: “The situation is very tense.” At a fortified position on the Rezangla Pass, the two armies are only about 200 meters apart.
Qian Feng told the “Huan Qiu Shi Bao” reporter that at present, the situation on the Sino-Indian border is very tense, and that rumors are flying all over. It is conceivable that the longer the confrontation lasts, tempers of the frontline military personnel on both sides will continue to rise. This will cause great damage to both China-India relations and the public opinion of the two countries, and indeed requires the greatest attention from both sides. The crux of the current situation is that India’s policy towards China has been prominent on both sides for a long time. This epidemic has triggered major changes in the international landscape. India has seen “opportunities” in the Sino-US game and believes that it has opportunities to take advantage of it, thus breeding opportunities. Originally, India’s road construction on the border was not a recent thing, but taking advantage of this “opportunity”, India thought it could push forward a little bit, which has led to the current situation.
India’s actions have increased the risk
On the 9th, a ridiculous incident appeared in the Indian media. On Monday, the Indian military was reported to have displayed a “humanitarian posture” and sent 13 yaks that entered the Indian side of the line of actual control to China. But inexplicably, when “India Today” reported the incident on the 9th, it alluded to these yaks as “animal spies sent over.” The Indian claim that “five Indian civilians were kidnapped by the Chinese army” was also found to be false on the evening of the 8th. The five men were hunters who “inadvertently crossed the actual control line to the Chinese side.”
The Indian army’s shooting and threatening of Chinese patrol personnel set a very bad precedent, making the situation more tense, and also exacerbating the outside world’s concern that the situation may deteriorate further. The US “Diplomat” stated on the 9th that the past two and a half months have witnessed a series of “firsts” in Sino-Indian relations which do not indicate a good long-term development trajectory. Nor is a way of bringing the ongoing crisis between the two countries to an end in sight.
According to Asia Times Online, the first gunshot in the China-India border area in more than 40 years echoed between Beijing and New Delhi, sending a heart breaking message: If the confrontation cannot be resolved quickly, peace in the region can no longer be taken for granted..
“Small miscalculations on the India-China border may lead to big mistakes.”
According to a US CNBC report, Narayanan, former National Security Adviser in India, said in an interview on the 9th, “It is evident that small miscalculations can lead to big mistakes… There are many dangerous possibilities, so I think we face a difficult period”. Indian geo-political related issues expert Jayadeva told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao reporter that the current tension seems to be the same as prior to 1962, but both the international environment and the domestic environment of the two countries had undergone earth-shaking changes. He believes that “this change is reflected in bilateral relations, namely that a military adventure launched by either party would not be advisable”.