New Delhi: At its inaugural ‘2+2’ defence and foreign ministerial dialogue with Russia, India on Monday listed “extraordinary militarisation” in its neighbourhood and “unprovoked aggression” along its northern border among major challenges facing the country.
In his opening remarks at the talks, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that India is confident of overcoming the challenges with a strong political will and an inherent capability of its people.
Besides Singh, the talks are being attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Gen Sergey Shoigu.
“The pandemic, the extraordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown in several challenges,” the defence minister said.
Singh, however, did not mention China while referring to the unprovoked aggression in eastern Ladakh.
Noting that India’s development needs are colossal and its defence challenges are “legitimate, real and immediate”, he said India seeks partners that are sensitive and responsive towards the country’s expectations and requirements.
“It is a historic day in our bilateral relations,” Singh said, referring to the talks in the new format as well as summit talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day.
He said India-Russia defence engagements progressed in an “unprecedented” manner in recent times.
In his remarks, Jaishankar said ties between India and Russia have been “close and time-tested” in a world that has changed so much.
“They (the ties) have been exceptionally steady,” he said.
“We are meeting at a critical juncture in the global geopolitical environment which is in great flux especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Jaishankar also described terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation as prominent challenges facing the region.
“As close friends and strategic partners, India and Russia have been working together to safeguard our common interests and ensure peace prosperity for our peoples,” he said.
The external affairs minister also said that the situation in Afghanistan has wider repercussions including for central Asia.