China-India border tensions simmer in lead-up to meeting with Russia

The clashes at the disputed Himalayan border come amid a rising din of nationalism stoked by both India and China. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - India is pushing Russia to speed up the sale of a missile defence system and fighter jets amid worsening ties with Beijing following the worst military face-off between the Asian nations in four decades.

The request comes as China and India's foreign ministers are due to meet on Tuesday (June 23) in their first face-to-face interaction since last week's deadly clashes along their disputed Himalayan border, in which 20 Indian soldiers died, along with an unknown number of Chinese casualties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will host the virtual trilateral meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and India's Minister for External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after Moscow emerged as a key player in thawing relations between the two neighbours.

The clashes - along with revelations that China held 10 Indian soldiers in military custody for days after the clashes before releasing them - come amid a rising din of nationalism stoked by both governments as the two powers jostle for regional influence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen for an early resolution of the border dispute, as he risks a drop in popularity if the army suffers more casualties if there are further clashes along the disputed border.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow, where they are expected to discuss the India-China border tensions and New Delhi's desire to ensure an unimpeded and early supply of military spares.

Advancing the deliveries of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile defence system and the purchase of Russian-made jet fighters - Su-30Mki and MiG-29 - sit high on Mr Singh's shopping list, people familiar with the details said.

The S-400 missile system will provide heft to India's otherwise antiquated air defences, while the additional fighters will boost the capability of the Indian Air Force. It needs 42 squadrons of fighters but has about 32 squadrons only, said the people, who asked not to be named, citing rules on speaking to the media.

The US has cautioned India against buying the S-400 system, saying the purchase would have a serious impact on Washington-New Delhi defence ties.

Defence Ministry spokesman A. Bharat Bhushan Babu declined to comment before the meetings in Moscow had taken place.

The Victory Day parade in Moscow on Wednesday will see both Indian and Chinese troops marching. High-level military talks between China and India ended on Monday evening with no agreement on de-escalation or disengagement, officials said, at a time when China and India are freshly amassing troops on the Depsang Plains.

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