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Rajnath’s visit to Mongolia yields dividends beyond defence 

Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh gifts a horse to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Ulaanbaatar on Wednesday. It was named Tejas by the Indian minister (All images courtesy: Ministry of Defence, PIB and Government of Mongolia)

The first visit to Mongolia by an Indian Defence Minister ended on Wednesday with both countries vowing more cooperation in the fields of oil refinery construction, defence, information technology, cyber security, education, aviation, and tourism.

As Rajnath Singh left Ulaanbaatar for Tokyo to attend the 2nd India-Japan 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh – also the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces –  gifted a white horse to him which the Defence Minister named as Tejas.

In a time-honoured tradition, Mongolians symbolically gift a horse to visiting dignitaries from friendly countries signifying the relationship.

PM Narendra Modi
During his historic visit to Mongolia in May 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also gifted a brown racehorse horse by the Mongolian PM which he named ‘Kanthaka’ after Gautam Buddha’s horse.

The traditional gift is usually left behind to be taken care of by Mongolian herders on the country’s steppes.

In 2019, the then US President Donald Trump’s 13-year-old son Barron was also gifted a horse by Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga which was named ‘Victory’.

Similarly, several visiting top officials from various countries have been presented with a Mongolian steed after landing in the land-locked country.

Mongolia RajnathMongolia, which has declared India as a ‘spiritual neighbour’, remains keen on extending the Strategic Partnership established between the two Asian democracies to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Strategically located Mongolia – it shares a 4600 km land border with China in the south and a 3600 km land border with Russia in the north – has become a country of focus for India with New Delhi focusing majorly on the 3 Ts – trade, tourism and technology – to expand and enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation with the country.

Citing the long-standing historical and cultural ties with the resource-rich nation, Singh highlighted the visit of Law minister Kiren Rijiju in June this year who led a 25-member delegation to the Mongolian capital carrying the ceremonial casket of Buddhist holy relics for Buddh Purnima celebrations.


India’s historical connect and convergence in Buddhism with Mongolia forms the basis of deep, spiritual friendship between the two countries. It had allocated 10 dedicated ICCR scholarships for studying ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ for Mongolians at specialized institutes of Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS) Leh and Central University of Tibetan Studies (CUTS), Varanasi starting 2020-2021 to further consolidate the shared legacy between the two nations.

The Modi government has also committed to digitization of Buddhist manuscripts in the Gandan monastery besides reprinting about 100 sets of sacred Mongolian Kanjur (108 volumes each) for distribution in the main centres of Buddhism in Mongolia.

“We consider Mongolia as our third strategic neighbour and attach special importance to it,” said Singh reiterating New Delhi’s resolve to reinvigorate the India-Mongolia Joint Working Group (JWG) with a meeting in India later this year.


The construction of the first oil refinery in Mongolia – India’s single largest project of assistance under Line of Credit (LoC) of USD 1.236 billion and has the capability of refining 1.5 million metric tonnes of crude per year (equivalent to approximately 75% of Mongolian energy consumption) – has further consolidated India-Mongolia friendship.

As Rajnath Singh inaugurated a Cyber Security Training Centre and laid the foundation stone of the India-Mongolia Friendship School – both constructed/being built with assistance from India, it was emphasised that defence remains an important element of bilateral engagements.

Both countries noted the successful development of cooperation in the sector in the form of mutual military visits at all levels, consultations between the ministries of defence, training of military specialists, professional development, peacekeeping and joint training and exercises, and further strengthened relations.

Rajnath Singh“I am sure that as a result of this visit, the defence and security cooperation between the two countries and the relations between the armed forces will be further deepened and developed,” said Singh in Ulaanbaatar.

Experts believe that the steady development of the strategic partnership between the two countries in all fields, and the increasing frequency of high-level mutual visits and meetings in recent years, will surely play an important role in the development and expansion of relations and cooperation in future.

Also Read: With East Asia on the radar, India seeks deeper foothold in Mongolia during Rajnath Singh’s visit