SCO: Chinese defence minister in India to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu attends a meeting with Russian President at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 16, 2023.

Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu has arrived in India to attend a key security summit meeting amid strained ties between the countries.

Mr Li will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ meeting on Thursday and Friday in Indian capital Delhi.

This is the first visit to India by a Chinese defence minister since a deadly clash between troops in 2020.

At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers died.

Both sides have also had other confrontations since then, with the most recent flare-up happening in December at Tawang in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The root cause of the tensions between the countries is an ill-defined 3,440km (2,100-mile)-long disputed border in the high-altitude Himalayan region. Rivers, lakes and snowcaps along the frontier mean the line can shift, bringing soldiers face to face at many points, sparking a confrontation.

China’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that Mr Li will address the conference in Delhi and “meet with the heads of delegations from relevant countries to communicate and exchange views on the issues of international and regional situation as well as defence and security cooperation”.

Local media has reported that Mr Li and Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh may also hold a bilateral meeting in Delhi. Both countries have not officially confirmed this.

Mr Li’s visit comes days after India and China concluded the 18th round of military talks to try and resolve the border dispute.

India became the chair of the SCO in 2023. The organisation was formed by China, Russia and four Central Asian countries in 2001 as a countermeasure to limit the influence of Western alliances such as Nato. India and Pakistan joined the group in 2017.

Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu will also attend the meet in Delhi, while Pakistan’s Khawaja Asif is expected to join virtually.

Next week, Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will attend an SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in India – it’s the first visit by a top Pakistani government official to India in years.

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