Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, asking officials to work at resolving a border dispute.
(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, asking officials to work at resolving a border dispute.
Xi and Modi have largely avoided direct talks since the border conflict began in May 2020 despite having crossed paths at a number of international gatherings. They last had an unplanned exchange about ties at a dinner for Group of 20 leaders in Bali last November.
In South Africa, both leaders touched on the dispute, which sparked the worst armed clashes seen in four decades with thousands of troops and weaponry rushed to the border. Several rounds of talks involving military officials and diplomats have made little progress in resolving the standoff.
“Modi raised the border dispute with President Xi,” India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said at a briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday. “The two leaders directed officials to resolve the border dispute expeditiously.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said Xi told Modi that improving ties would be conducive to regional peace and economic development. “Both sides should properly handle the border issue and jointly maintain peace in the area,” it added.
While China has sought to segregate the dispute from its overall relationship with India, New Delhi insists it is a key stumbling block.
A similar unscheduled meeting between Modi and Xi on the sidelines of a G-20 gathering in Hamburg in 2017 led to a resolution of a tense 70-day stand-off between the two armies who were deployed toe-to-toe inside neighboring Bhutan.
The detente didn’t last long and the two armies had their worst face-off in decades three years later.
“We are two countries with huge population and economic sizes, we have to have good terms, maybe not today but tomorrow — but we will do it in the long-term,” said Li Kexin, director-general of the Department of International Economic Affairs at China’s Foreign Ministry.
India has discouraged its companies from trading with — and investing in — China, banned some mobile phone applications developed by its neighbor and cut back on the issuing of visas to Chinese nationals.
The border dispute has eroded India’s trust in China and undermined public and political will to maintain relations, India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval told his Chinese counterpart and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a BRICS meeting in July, according to a Ministry of External Affairs statement.
–With assistance from Timothy Rangongo and Jing Li.
(Adds comment from China Foreign Ministry from paragraph five.)
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