China’s Foreign Ministry said early on Friday that its President Xi Jinping told Prime Minister Narendra Modi during talks on Wednesday that both sides “should bear in mind the overall interests” of ties and “handle properly the border issue”.
Beijing also said that the meeting between the leaders, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, came “at the request” of Mr. Modi. Informed sources, however, clarified that while India had sought an informal conversation with China, it had rejected a pending Chinese request for a more structured bilateral meeting between the two leaders.
Neither side had acknowledged the meeting on Wednesday, but on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that both sides had agreed to step up efforts for the disengagement of troops and de-escalation of tensions along the Line of Actual Control after a conversation between the two leaders the previous day.
Possible thaw in ties
While Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi had spoken briefly on the sidelines of the Bali G-20 summit dinner last year about the need to “stabilise the LAC”, where a military standoff has been under way since April 2020, this is the first such conversation in the last three years where the two leaders spoke at some length about resolving the issue. It could represent a thaw in ties that have been in limbo.
“In a conversation with President Xi Jinping of China, PM highlighted India’s concerns on the unresolved issues along the LAC in the western sector of the India-China border areas,” Mr. Kwatra said, adding that the two leaders had decided to “direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation”. Military commanders from both sides have in recent days been negotiating modalities for disengagement at two remaining points of friction in Demchok and Depsang.
The statement from Beijing early on Friday provided little detail on the talks, only saying that “the two leaders had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on current China-India relations and other questions of shared interest”, and noted that the talks had been held at Mr. Modi’s request.
“President Xi stressed that improving China-India relations serves the common interests of the two countries and peoples, and is also conducive to peace, stability and development of the world and the region,” the statement said. “The two sides should bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and handle properly the border issue so as to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border region,” it added.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson added on Friday that China “hopes to work with India to act on the important common understandings between the two leaders, increase strategic mutual trust, focus on our consensus and cooperation, remove disturbances and obstacles and advance the bilateral relations along a sound and stable track.”
“The boundary question is a historical issue and does not represent the entirety of China-India relations. We should place it appropriately in our bilateral relations and seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement through peaceful and friendly consultations,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. “Before the boundary question is settled, the two sides need to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas.”