India Quashes Chinese Media Claim of Meeting between Rajnath Singh and His Counterpart in Moscow

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Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will not hold any bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of a grand parade in Moscow, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Singh is currently on a three-day visit to Moscow to attend the grand military parade on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany in the Second World War. Chinese State Councilor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is also expected to attend the parade.

China's state-run Global Times on Tuesday claimed Wei may meet his Indian counterpart on Wednesday.

"Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe will attend Russia's Victory Day parade in Moscow on Wednesday, and likely hold a meeting with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh over resolving border tensions," the publication quoted sources as saying.

However, Singh's office in Delhi rejected the claims, saying no such meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

"Our Defence Minister would not be meeting the Chinese Defence Minister," said Defence Ministry Spokesperson Bharat Bhushan Babu when asked about the Chinese media report.

The development comes as India and China attempt to de-escalate tensions at the Line of Actual Control following bloody clashes last week in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley.

Singh's visit comes in the midst of the escalating border standoff with China. Officials said Singh went ahead with the visit due to India's decades-old military ties with Russia. Russia has been one of India's key suppliers of arms and ammunition.

A tri-service 75-member Indian military contingent has already reached Moscow to participate in the parade. The Indian team will participate alongside armed forces personnel from at least 11 countries, including China.

"The visit of the defence minister will strengthen the longstanding special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia," the defence ministry had said earlier. "The Indian participation in the victory day parade will be a mark of tribute to the great sacrifices made by Russia and other nations in the Second World War in which Indian soldiers also participated and made supreme sacrifice."

Russia rules out interference

Russia on Tuesday ruled out mediating between India and China, saying the two nations do not need any kind of assistance to resolve their disputes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks came after a virtual conference of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also attended the conference.

"I do not think that India and China need any help, any kind of assistance specifically aimed at helping them to resolve disputes," Lavrov said.

"As soon as the border incidents took place, meetings were held and contact was established between the military command on the ground and the foreign ministers," Sputnik News quoted Lavrov as saying.

"As I understand, these contacts are ongoing, and neither party has made any statement indicating a lack of willingness to negotiate based on generally acceptable approaches. We naturally expect it to continue that way," he said.

India and China have rejected any role for other parties in finding a peaceful resolution to their boundary issue. Russia has maintained close ties with both China and India.

This is the first visit abroad by a senior Union minister in four months as foreign travels were restricted in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Singh travelled by an Indian Air Force aircraft, while strictly following all laid precautions against the coronavirus infection, the officials said.

(With inputs from PTI)