India holds 'frank' exchange with China in bid to resolve border dispute

Relations between nuclear-armed powers have been frosty since deadly border clashes in Himalayan Ladakh in 2020

India and China have each stationed tens of thousands of soldiers along the de facto border called the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh region. AP
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India said it had held a “frank” and “in-depth” exchange of views with China at the 16th round of military discussions to resolve the border standoff in the Himalayas that has strained bilateral ties between the nuclear-armed nations.

Diplomatic relations between the neighbouring powers have remained frosty since deadly clashes in Himalayan Ladakh along the non-demarcated border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in 2020.

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the hand-to-hand brawl between rival troops, with Beijing claiming four of its soldiers were also killed in the clashes in June two years ago.

The fracas triggered the mobilisation of the greatest number of soldiers from each country to the treacherous, high-altitude disputed border area since they fought a war in 1962.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said commanders had conducted a meeting on Sunday at Chushul-Moldo border point on the Indian side, where they discussed possibilities for “peace and tranquillity” along the LAC.

“The two sides reaffirmed that the resolution of remaining issues would help in restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the Western Sector and enable progress in bilateral relations,” a statement said.

The MEA said both nations have agreed to maintain security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector, while continuing military and diplomatic dialogues for a mutually acceptable resolution of the issues “at the earliest”.

India refers to Western Sector as the non-demarcated border that divides China’s Tibet region and Ladakh.

The high-level talks came more than a week after Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the need for “early resolution of outstanding issues”, on the sidelines of the G20 conclave in Bali.

The two countries have held 15 meetings of their senior military commanders, the last being in March, to disengage from all the "friction points" along the LAC, but with limited success.

India's External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. AP

The South Asian nation has maintained that Chinese troops had entered the Indian territory but Beijing contests New Delhi’s claims.

India reportedly sought disengagement of troops from all the areas, as well as resolution of issues in Depsang Bulge and Demchok during the fresh round of talks.

Mr Jaishankar, who had earlier emphasised the need for normal bilateral relationships during Mr Yi’s unannounced trip to New Delhi in March, reiterated the need to “sustain the momentum” to complete disengagement from all the remaining areas to restore “peace and tranquillity” in the border area.

Officials held an online meeting last month for the 24th Working Mechanism for Consultation and Co-ordination on India-China Border Affairs and exchanged views on the situation along the LAC in the Western Sector in Eastern Ladakh.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 6:03 PM