China declares India border stable in contrast with Indian view

BEIJING (AP) — China’s defense minister says conditions along the tense, high-altitude border with India are “stable overall,” in sharp contrast with the far more pessimistic view from New Delhi.

Li Shangfu made the remarks in a press release issued shortly after his meeting with Rajnath Singh, his Indian counterpart in New Delhi on Thursday.

“China and India have far more common interests than differences,” Li was quoted as saying.

“At present, conditions on the China-Indian border are stable overall,” Li said. The sides should “take a long-term view, put the border issue at an appropriate place in bilateral relations, and promote the normalization of the border situation as soon as possible,” he said.

In its own statement, India’s defense ministry quoted Singh as saying China had eroded the “entire basis” of ties between the countries by violating bilateral agreements, in reference to a nearly 3-year-old standoff involving thousands of soldiers stationed along their disputed border in the Ladakh region.

The development of India-China relations “is premised on the prevalence of peace and tranquility at the borders” and all border issues need to be resolved in accordance with existing agreements and commitments, the ministry said in a statement.

The different tone in the statements is India’s attempt to bring attention to the large number of Chinese soldiers it claims to have deployed, to their aggressive behavior and to any attempts made to unilaterally change the status quo of the border between the two countries.

China has, on its part, tried to downplay its efforts to consolidate border presence, and portrays frictions between the two Asian giants as deliberate U.S. attempts at sowing discord.

Three years ago, a clash in Ladakh resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and 4 Chinese. The standoff lasted for years in the rugged mountains, where both sides had tens and thousands of soldiers backed up by tanks, artillery and fighter jets.

Days before Li’s visit, top Indian and Chinese army commanders held an 18th round of talks in an attempt to work out a disengagement of troops from tense areas. These discussions have laid protocols for avoiding clashes, but they have not resolved the bigger issue.

India and China both withdrawn their troops from certain areas along the northern and south banks of Pangong Tso and Gogra Valleys, but they continue to deploy extra troops in a multi-tiered deployment.

A Line of Actual Control separates Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. The demarcation line is a physical boundary that divides areas under control, not territorial claims.

India and China fought for a month-long bloody war in 1962 over their border. Tensions in the area have been high ever since. The dispute has at times fueled strong anti-China feelings in India.

India states that the border de facto is 3,488 kilometers long (2,167 miles), although China claims a shorter distance.

In all, China claims some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, including Arunachal Pradesh with its mainly Buddhist population.

India claims that China occupies 38,000 sq km (15,000 sq mi) of territory in the western sector of the Aksai-Chin Plateau which India considers to be part of Ladakh where the current confrontation is taking place.

Li is in New Delhi on Friday to attend the meeting of defense chiefs from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Chinese-dominated organization dominated by Russia.

This group was originally formed to limit U.S. influence. It includes China, India and Pakistan.


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