Indian defence minister held ‘frank discussions’ with his Chinese counterpart, India’s defence ministry says.
India’s defence minister has accused China of eroding the “entire basis” of ties between the two countries by violating bilateral agreements, a reference to a nearly three-year-old standoff involving thousands of soldiers stationed along their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met with visiting Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu and “had frank discussions about the developments in the India-China border areas as well as bilateral relations”, India’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday.
Singh told Li that “development of relations between India and China is premised on the prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders,” and that all border issues need to be resolved in accordance with existing agreements and commitments, the ministry said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment on the talks from the Chinese side.
India says the deployment of a large number of Chinese troops, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the border status quo violate agreements between the countries. The violations have “eroded the entire basis of bilateral relations”, Singh said.
A clash three years ago in the Ladakh region killed 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese. It turned into a long-running standoff in the rugged mountainous area, where each side has stationed tens of thousands of military personnel backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets.
Days before Li’s visit, top Indian and Chinese army commanders held an 18th round of talks in an attempt to work out a disengagement of troops from areas of tension.
Both India and China have withdrawn troops from some areas on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso, Gogra and Galwan Valley, but continue to maintain extra troops as part of a multi-tier deployment.
A Line of Actual Control separates Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. India and China fought a war over their border in 1962.
Defence Minister Li is visiting New Delhi to attend a meeting of the defence chiefs of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Friday. The group consists of China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Singh also met separately on Thursday with the defence ministers of Iran, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.