Chinese, Indian foreign ministers discuss border peace at G20

The relationship between New Delhi and Beijing has been tense since deadly clashes along their border in 2020.

Jaishankar g20
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, centre, speaks during the G20 foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023. [Photo: Olivier Douliery/AP]

The foreign ministers of India and China have met on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi, signaling a thaw in their relationship, which has been tense since 2020.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the talks with his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, “focused on addressing current challenges to the bilateral relationship, especially peace and tranquility in the border areas”.

“There are real problems in that relationship that need to be looked at, that need to be discussed very openly and candidly between us,” Jaishankar told reporters on Thursday. “That’s what we sought to do today.”

Qin, who is in India for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, met with Jaishankar a day after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, “China attaches great importance to India.”

She said maintaining good ties between the two neighbours is fundamental to their interests.

The relationship between New Delhi and Beijing has deteriorated since 2020 when fighting broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers along their land border in the Ladakh region. Twenty Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed.

Both sides accused each other of intruding across the loosely demarcated de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control. Pangong Lake, located 4,270 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level in Ladakh, has been one of the flashpoints.

The standoff began in May 2020 when a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the lake, resulting in 11 soldiers on both sides being injured.

Tensions intensified a month later when 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops were killed in hand-to-hand combat on June 15, 2020 – the worst fighting between the two forces in decades.

The standoff has continued despite 17 rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders.

Since 2020, China has been building dozens of large weatherproof structures along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh as barracks for their troops to stay during the winter. New helipads, widened airstrips, new surface-to-air missile sites and radar locations have also been reported by Indian media.

In February last year, India and China withdrew troops from some locations on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Lake, in Gogra and the Galwan Valley in Ladakh. Both sides, however, continue to maintain extra forces in the region.

India says China is occupying 38,000sq km (15,000 square miles) of the Aksai Chin Plateau that India considers part of Ladakh.

India and China fought a war over the border in 1962.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies