New Delhi, Sep 1 (PTI) Defence minister Rajnath Singh will leave for Russia on Wednesday to attend a crucial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is taking place under the shadow of an escalating border row between India and China, two of the bloc's key members.
Besides attending the SCO defence ministers' meeting on September 4, Singh will hold talks with Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu and several other top military officials with an aim to expedite implementation of a number of procurement programmes, officials said.
Singh will depart from Moscow on the evening of September 5, they said.
Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe is also expected to attend the SCO meeting.
The defence minister's visit comes just days after India withdrew from a multilateral war game to be held in Russia, and expected to be attended by the Chinese and Pakistani troops.
Asked about the possibility of a bilateral meeting between Singh and Chinese defence minister Wei on the sidelines of the SCO event, officials said there is no such plan.
The SCO defence ministers' meeting is taking place in the wake of fresh tension between India and China following Chinese army's unsuccessful attempts to change the status quo on the southern bank of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh.
The two sides have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks to end the border standoff which began on May 5.
The fresh attempts by China to change the status quo in the Pangong lake area escalated the tension further.
Russia has already said that India and China should resolve the border dispute through talks and that a 'constructive' relationship between the two countries was important for regional stability.
It will be Singh's second visit to Moscow since June. He had represented India at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on June 24 that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Russia has also invited External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to attend the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting on September 10.
In his bilateral meeting with Russian Defence Minister Shoigu, Singh is likely to press for early supply of various weapons and spares to the Indian armed forces under defence contracts concluded earlier.
In the talks, both sides are expected to officially finalise a long-pending proposal to produce AK 203 rifles in India.
Officials said Singh is also likely to request the Russian side to ensure timely delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems to India.
The delivery of the first batch of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to India is scheduled by the end of 2021.
In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.
Last year, India made the first tranche of payment of around USD 800 million to Russia for the missile systems.
Officials said the SCO meeting is likely to deliberate on regional security scenarios and ways to deal with various threats and challenges.
The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations which accounts for almost 44 per cent of the world population stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea.
The aim of the SCO is to maintain peace, stability and security of the region. India and Pakistan became members of SCO in 2017. PTI MPB PYK PYK