External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is likely to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi today for bilateral talks aimed at defusing tension after a spike in hostilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two nations.
The foreign ministers are in Moscow to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting. The two leaders will also meet at a luncheon of the Foreign Ministers of Russia-India-China (RIC).
The Jaishankar-Wang talks will take place against the backdrop of a fresh stand-off at the southern bank of Pangong Tso on Monday, when Chinese soldiers armed with spears and rifles tried to close in on Indian forward posts in an apparent attempt to force a physical fight on the lines of the June 14 clash at Galwan Valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers died for the country. Shots were fired for the first time along the LAC in 45 years.
India said Chinese soldiers, forced to retreat, fired shots in the air. China claimed that Indian soldiers had fired warning shots after "crossing the LAC", which India firmly denied.
Mr Jaishankar last week described the situation in eastern Ladakh as "very serious" and said it calls for "very, very deep conversation" between the two sides at a political level.
The latest incident took place three days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe met on the sidelines of another SCO meet in Moscow last Friday. Rajnath Singh reportedly told Wei that attempts by Chinese troops to unilaterally alter status quo along the LAC was in violation of bilateral agreements and Beijing should work with New Delhi for complete disengagement from all friction areas including Pangong Tso.
Yesterday, top government sources said the standoff ''can take any trajectory,'' indicating that the possibility of a conflict - either localised or across the region - cannot be ruled out. But the sources said there was room for dialogue and engagement at diplomatic and military levels.
While expressing concern at the ground situation in South Pangong, where the Chinese have made several attempts to drive out Indian soldiers who secured key heights, officials said they believed that a war-like situation has not emerged as yet.
Despite the ground situation, there is hope that ''both sides are trying to stop the actual shooting from happening".
There have been multiple rounds of talks at diplomatic and military levels which have resulted in partial Chinese withdrawal in the Galwan and North Pangong region, nowhere close to India's expectations after the Chinese moved into areas stretching from the Depsang Plains, Galwan, Hot Springs, Gogra, North and South Pangong in May this year.