The defense minister of India warned his Chinese counterpart on Thursday that incursions into their shared border threaten the “entirely basis” of their bilateral relations.
Before a regional security forum on Friday, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made the remarks during a meeting with the recently appointed Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in New Delhi.
The two military chiefs had “frank discussions about the developments in the India-China border areas as well as bilateral relations,” the Indian military Ministry stated in a statement after their meeting.
In apparent reference to deadly border clashes that claimed the lives of multiple soldiers on both sides three years ago, Singh “categorically conveyed that development of relations between India and China is premised on prevalence of peace and tranquility at the borders,” the statement said.
“He reiterated that violation of existing agreements has eroded the entire basis of bilateral relations and disengagement at the border will logically be followed with de-escalation,” the statement added.
It is the first such encounter on Indian soil between the two defense chiefs since deadly clashes along their disputed border in Aksai Chin-Ladakh in 2020. Tensions between the two countries have been simmering ever since, and escalated in December when a brawl between troops from both sides in the Tawang Sector of India’s northeastern territory of Arunachal Pradesh resulted in minor injuries.
The lengthy disputed border has long been a source of friction between New Delhi and Beijing, with the agitation spilling into war before. In 1962 a month-long conflict ended in a Chinese victory and India losing thousands of square miles of territory.
In a readout of the meeting released by China’s Defense Ministry, Li said that “as of now,” the situation on the border is stable. “Both sides should take a long-term view, place the border issue at an appropriate position in our bilateral relations, and promote the normalization of the border situation as soon as possible,” said the statement.
Li is visiting New Delhi alongside counterparts from Russia and several Central Asian countries to attend the security summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) defense ministers in New Delhi on Friday. His visit comes four days after India and China concluded the 18th round of talks to attempt to resolve the border issue.
Ahead of his visit, China’s Ministry of Defense said Li will “communicate and exchange views on issues of the international and regional situations as well as defense and security cooperation,” at the SCO gathering.
Earlier this month, he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in his first overseas trip since assuming the role, as China and Russia continue to bolster ties while Western countries ramp up pressure on Beijing to push Putin to end his war against Ukraine.
Li, a general and veteran of China’s military modernization drive, was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 over transactions with Russia’s state-controlled arms exporter Rosoboronexport, when he led the Chinese military’s Equipment Development Department.
India, which is moving closer to the US as it tries to counter the rise of an increasingly assertive China, also relies heavily on Russian arms to equip its military.
India assumed the chair of the SCO summit in 2023. The grouping’s foreign ministers are expected to meet in the western Indian coastal state of Goa on May 4-5.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to the country will be the most senior-level one in seven years.