External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is set to hold separate bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov at a beach resort in Goa on Thursday on the sidelines of a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) amid rapidly evolving regional security situation.
In the talks with Qin, Jaishankar is once again expected to convey that India-China ties cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas, people familiar with the matter said.
Qin, Lavrov, their Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and foreign ministers of other SCO countries are arriving in Goa on Thursday to attend a crucial conclave of the SCO that is taking place ahead of the annual summit of the grouping in the first week of July. India is the current chair of the grouping.
The two-day SCO foreign ministerial meeting will begin with a gala reception at a luxury beach resort in Goa on Thursday while the main deliberations will take place on Friday.
The people cited above said Jaishankar will hold separate bilateral talks with his counterparts from almost all SCO countries. However, there is no clarity on such a meeting between Jaishankar and Bhutto-Zardari.
The bilateral meeting between Jaishankar and Qin will be the second one in the last two months. The Chinese foreign minister visited India in March to attend a meeting of the G20 foreign ministers.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Jaishankar held talks with Qin during which he conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that the state of India-China relations is “abnormal” because of the lingering border row in eastern Ladakh.
Last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at a meeting that China’s violation of existing border agreements “eroded” the entire basis of ties between the two countries and that all issues relating to the frontier must be resolved in accordance with the existing pacts.
The meeting on April 27 took place in New Delhi on the sidelines of a conclave of the SCO defence ministers.
The ties between India and China nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
The Indian and the Chinese troops are locked in a standoff in a few friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh for the last three years though they disengaged in several places following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
India has been maintaining that the relationship between the two countries should be based on “three mutuals” — mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests.
The people cited above said Jaishankar and Russian foreign minister Lavrov in their meeting are set to review the overall bilateral ties with a focus on trade and commercial engagement.
India has been pressing Russia for urgently addressing the trade imbalance that has been in favour of Moscow.
India’s trade deficit with Russia jumped significantly in the last few months after it procured significant volumes of discounted crude oil from that country in the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis.
Sources said Lavrov will arrive in India as scheduled notwithstanding escalation in tension between Russia and Ukraine. Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of attacking the Kremlin with drones overnight in an unsuccessful attempt to kill President Vladimir Putin.
The talks between Jaishankar and Lavrov are also set to cover a number of issues relating to bilateral ties and regional situations, they said.
Jaishankar is also likely to hold separate bilateral talks with his counterparts from some other SCO countries on Friday.
India is hosting the SCO in its capacity as the grouping’s chair.
The people said the foreign ministers will deliberate on overall challenges facing the region in the backdrop of the current geo-political turmoil and the state of bilateral ties between the member nations would not impact the discussions.
The SCO is an influential economic and security bloc and has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
India and Pakistan became its permanent members in 2017.
India was made an observer at the SCO in 2005 and has generally participated in the ministerial-level meetings of the grouping, which focus mainly on security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region.
India has shown a keen interest in deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.