New Delhi (CNN) India’s defense minister told his Chinese counterpart on Thursday that violations of their common border undermine the “whole basis” of relations between the two Asian neighbours.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made the remarks during a meeting with newly appointed Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in New Delhi ahead of the regional security summit on Friday.
The two defense ministers “had frank discussions on developments in the border areas between India and China as well as bilateral relations,” according to a statement issued by the Indian Ministry of Defense following their conversation.
In an apparent reference to the bloody border clashes that claimed the lives of several soldiers from both sides three years ago, Singh said, “He conveyed categorically that the development of relations between India and China is based on peace and tranquility on the border.”
“He reaffirmed that the violation of existing agreements has weakened the basis of the entire bilateral relationship and that the disengagement at the border will logically be followed by de-escalation,” the statement added.
This is the first confrontation of its kind on Indian soil between the two defense ministers since the bloody clashes along their disputed border in Aksai Chin-Ladakh in 2020. Tensions between the two countries have escalated since then, and escalated in December When a scuffle between troops from both sides in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India resulted in minor injuries.
The long, disputed border has long been a source of friction between New Delhi and Beijing, where the turmoil has spilled over into war before. In 1962, a month-long struggle ended in victory for China and India losing thousands of square miles of territory.
In a statement of the meeting released by China’s Defense Ministry, Li said the situation at the border has been stable “so far”. “The two sides should take a long-term view, put the border issue in a proper position in our bilateral relations, and promote the normalization of the border situation as soon as possible,” the statement said.
Li is in New Delhi along with his counterparts from Russia and several Central Asian countries to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Defense Ministers’ Security Summit in New Delhi on Friday. His visit comes four days after India and China concluded the 18th round of talks in an attempt to resolve the border issue.
Prior to his visit, China’s Defense Ministry said Li would “communicate and exchange views on issues of international and regional situation as well as defense and security cooperation” at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting.
Earlier this month, it is He met Russian President Vladimir Putin In Moscow on his first foreign trip since taking office, China and Russia continue to strengthen ties while Western countries ramp up pressure on Beijing to push Putin to end his war against Ukraine.
The United States sanctioned Li, a general and veteran of China’s military modernization drive, in 2018 over transactions with Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, when he was leading China’s military equipment development department.
India, which is drawing closer to the United States as it tries to counter the rise of an increasingly assertive China, also relies heavily on Russian weapons to equip its army.
India assumed the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in 2023. The group’s foreign ministers are expected to meet in the western Indian coastal state of Goa on May 4-5.
The visit of Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to the country will be the highest level in seven years.
CNN’s Simon McCarthy contributed to this report
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