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Defence minister Rajnath Singh (PTI photo)

NEW DELHI: Amid anger in Beijing over Indian Army occupying strategic heights in the Ladakh region, defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday refrained from committing himself to a meeting sought by his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the meeting of defence ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Moscow.
Sources here said Singh cited his “tight schedule” to avoid spelling out whether he would be able to meet the Chinese defence minister.
The Chinese overture for a dialogue comes amid indications that the Army took pre-emptive manoeuvres to take control of strategic heights in the Pangong Tso-Chushul area. Interestingly, while no meeting with the Chinese defence minister was scheduled, the Indian side had expected the Chinese to seek one in the aftermath of the Army’s audacious operation on the night of August 29.
Singh had a very successful round of talks with Russian defence minister General Sergey Shoigu. Sources here said the meeting, marked by “great personal chemistry” between the two, saw Shoigu reiterating Russia’s policy of not supplying arms to Pakistan in response to a request from India. Shoigu assured Singh that Russia stood by India’s “security interests”, and extended support to the ‘Make in India’ campaign.
Singh thanked Russia for being a reliable source of weapons at crucial times. “Singh conveyed appreciation for steadfast support provided by Russia, consistent with the defence and security needs of India, and in this context, particularly noted the timely manner in which Russia had responded to requests for particular weapon systems,” an official statement said.
The meeting coincided with the launch of two ‘Indra’ naval exercises by the navies of India and Russia off the Strait of Malacca. Singh emphasised the exercises demonstrated the common interests of both countries in maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region. “Both sides welcomed the advanced stage of discussions for establishment in India of an India-Russian joint venture for production of AK-203 assault rifles,” the statement said.

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