China says border should be kept ‘in proper place’, calls for resuming direct flights with India

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar highlighted “abnormal” state of ties and need for peace on the LAC in Thursday’s talks with Chinese counterpart Qin Gang

March 03, 2023 11:23 am | Updated 12:49 pm IST - Beijing

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar speaks with Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on the sidelines of G20 foreign ministers meeting, in New Delhi on March 2, 2023

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar speaks with Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on the sidelines of G20 foreign ministers meeting, in New Delhi on March 2, 2023 | Photo Credit: AP

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called on India to look at relations “in the context of once-in-a-century changes in the world” and to put the border issue “in the proper place”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

In Thursday’s talks in New Delhi, Mr. Jaishankar had flagged the “abnormal” state of ties and reiterated India’s position that restoration of peace on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was required for a return to normalcy.

The Chinese side, meanwhile, has sought to delink the boundary from the rest of ties, even while putting forward what the Indian military has seen as unacceptable demands in the long-running continuing negotiations that have dragged on for close to three years, to complete the disengagement process along the LAC.

Mr. Qin, in what is his first visit to India as Foreign Minister for the G-20 meet, said China “supports the Indian side in fulfilling its chairmanship of the G-20 and is ready to strengthen communication and cooperation to safeguard the common interests of developing countries and international equity and justice, so as to inject stability and positive energy into the world”.

On bilateral ties, he said both sides “should view their bilateral relations in the context of the once-in-a-century changes in the world, understand bilateral cooperation from the perspective of their respective national rejuvenation, and be partners on the path to modernisation,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing quoted him as saying.

“As neighbouring countries and major emerging economies, China and India have far more common interests than differences,” he said. “The development and revitalisation of China and India display the strength of developing countries, which will change the future of one-third of the world’s population, the future of Asia and even the whole world. The two sides should implement the important consensus of the leaders of the two countries, maintain dialogue and properly resolve disputes, and promote the improvement of bilateral relations and the steady moving forward of the relations.”

The boundary, and China’s transgressions starting in April 2020, remain a sticking point. Mr. Qin repeated the Chinese stand that “the boundary issue should be put in the proper place in bilateral relations” and that “the situation on the borders should be brought under normalised management as soon as possible.”

He added that China was “willing to speed up the resumption of exchanges and cooperation with India in various fields, resume direct flights at the earliest date and facilitate people-to-people exchanges”.  Flights have remained suspended since early 2020 and the start of the pandemic.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said at a press conference on Thursday he had discussed the “abnormal” current state of relations with Mr. Qin and the “thrust of our talks was on challenges in the bilateral relationship and the peace and tranquillity at the LAC.” The Chinese statement quoted Mr. Jaishankar as “agreeing that bilateral relations should be understood and improved from a historical perspective and strategic height.” 

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), as of early Friday, had not released any statement on the talks.

Last week, the two sides held their first in-person high-level border talks in more than three years, with Shilpak Ambule, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the MEA, travelling to Beijing for the 26th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC). The two sides discussed proposals for disengaging in two remaining friction areas to create conditions to “restore normalcy” in relations, and agreed to hold the next round of talks between senior military commanders at an early date.

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