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Defence Minister expected to visit Russia next week to attend SCO meet


NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to visit Russia next week to attend a crucial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which is expected to deliberate on regional security scenario and geo-strategic developments, official sources have said.

The SCO Defence Ministers' meeting is taking place at a time when two of its member countries, India and China, are locked in a bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

The sources said Singh is likely to leave for Moscow on September 3 as the meeting is expected to take place the next day.

It will be Singh's second visit to Moscow since June. He had represented India at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on June 24 that commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Russia has also invited External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers' meeting on September 10.

When asked whether Jaishankar will travel to Moscow for the meeting, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday said the Minister has received the invitation and a decision on his participation would be made known once it is taken.

Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh for over three-and-a-half months. Both countries are holding talks at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the dispute.

Russia has already said that India and China should resolve the border dispute through talks and that a "constructive" relationship between the two countries was important for regional stability.

The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, has emerged as one of the largest trans-regional international organisations which accounts for almost 44 per cent of the world population stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea.

The aim of the SCO is to maintain peace, stability and security of the region. India became a member of SCO in 2017.

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