India and China hold new meeting to defuse border tensions

Officials agree to hold discussions with the involvement of senior commanders to achieve complete disengagement

Paramilitary soldiers stand guard near the under-construction Zojila tunnel, which will connect Srinagar to the Indian territory of Ladakh, in Baltal. AFP
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Officials from India and China have held talks to review the situation in the disputed border region in eastern Ladakh and agreed to continue discussions to resolve sticking issues.

Relations between the nuclear-armed nations have remained strained since 2020 when at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed after soldiers from both sides brawled in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, along the un-demarcated border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Beijing said four of its soldiers were killed in the deadly clash.

This was the first lethal encounter between troops of the two countries since 1962, when they fought a war over the 3,500-kilometre disputed border that both countries claim cuts into their territory.

As many as 2,000 soldiers died on each side in what was known as the Sino-Indian war and there were further clashes in 1967 and 1975.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said officials held an online meeting on Tuesday 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.

“The two sides reviewed the situation [and] agreed that both sides should continue the discussions through diplomatic and military channels to resolve the remaining issues along the LAC at the earliest so as to create conditions for restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations,” the ministry said.

Officials agreed to hold the next round of meetings with the involvement of senior commanders to achieve complete disengagement from all friction points along the LAC, the ministry said.

India and China have held 15 meetings involving senior military commanders, the last being in March, but disputes have remained unresolved.

The meeting came amid media reports that China was constructing a second bridge across the Pangong Tso, a high-altitude lake area that both countries claim as their own.

Dozens of Chinese soldiers reportedly entered the Indian-administered side of the region in January and stopped locals from grazing their cattle.

Tens of thousands of soldiers from both sides have remained deployed at the border since the stand-off.

In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the first bilateral visit since the deadly border confrontation.

After the meeting, his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishakar reiterated that the relationship between the Asian nations cannot be normalised unless de-escalation happens along the tense Himalayan border.

Updated: June 01, 2022, 8:20 AM