Indian and Chinese defence ministers on Thursday shared the platform at the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus (ADMM) meeting during which the Indian side raised the issue of “threats to rules-based order” and “actions (that) complicate the situation”.

Addressing the meet virtually, Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh said, “Threats to the rules-based order, maritime security, cyber-related crimes and terrorism, just to name a few, remain the challenges that we need to address as a forum.”

An ASEAN Platform, ADMM-Plus has eight Dialogue Partners Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States. Since 2017, the ADMM-Plus has been meeting annually.

Without directly referring to China, he said, “As we enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, will go a long way in bringing sustained peace to the region.”

He pointed out, “Amid the current regional environment with visible strains, we appreciate the central role of ASEAN-led forums, including ADMM Plus in promoting dialogue and engagement towards a pluralistic, cooperative security order in Asia.”

India, China ties deteriorated substantially this year, due to the build-up by the Chinese forces at the line of actual control in eastern Ladakh. In June, India lost 20 of its soldiers due to aggressive action by the Chinese forces in the Galwan valley.

Earlier in September, both Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh and Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe had met to defuse the situation on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation defence minister meet in Moscow. Since then, a number of meetings have taken place at the diplomatic and military level, but the Chinese build-up remains.

On the COVID crisis, he said that “virus does not respect national boundaries, the response to the pandemic also needs to be collective and collaborative.”

The Indian defence minister also recalled the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific which he said, “underscores this impetus to cultivate strategic trust and continuously promote ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture.”

Vietnam is the chair of the ASEAN grouping this year and this year also marks the 10 year anniversary of the ADMM Plus. The first meet of the ADMM Plus took place on October 12, 2010, with regular participation of India.

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