New Delhi: In a clear message, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu that China’s violation of agreements along the frontier in eastern Ladakh “eroded” the entire basis of bilateral ties and that all issues must be resolved in accordance with the existing pacts.
At a nearly 45-minute meeting with Li, amid the three-year border row, Singh also conveyed to the Chinese defence minister that the development of India-China ties is premised on the prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the border.
Li’s visit to New Delhi to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is the first by a Chinese defence minister to India after the eastern Ladakh border standoff began in May 2020.
In a statement, the defence ministry said the two ministers had “frank” discussions about the developments in the India-China border areas as well as bilateral relations.
“The Raksha Mantri categorically conveyed that development of relations between India and China is premised on prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders,” it said.
“He added that all issues at the LAC need to be resolved in accordance with existing bilateral agreements and commitments,” the ministry said.
It said Singh 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.
India has been slamming China’s deployment of a massive number of troops and its aggressive behaviour along the LAC in violation of pacts on border management.
The talks took place hours after Li arrived in Delhi.
Sources said Singh categorically stated in the meeting that military cooperation between the two countries can progress only if peace and tranquillity is established at the border.
He said after disengagement, there should be movement towards de-escalation and expressed hope for a positive response, they said.
Singh conveyed to Li that India wants to improve relations with China but it can happen only after peace and tranquillity are restored at the border, the sources said.
The meeting between the two defence ministers took place days after the Indian and Chinese armies held 18th round of military talks on ending the three-year border row.
In the Corps Commander talks on April 23, the two sides agreed to stay in close touch and work out a mutually acceptable solution to the remaining issues in eastern Ladakh at the earliest.
However, no clear forward movement was indicated in ending the row.
Singh also held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Iran and Tajikistan and presented mementoes. It is learnt that no memento was given to the Chinese minister.
India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.
Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang is also set to visit India next week to attend a conclave of foreign ministers of SCO member countries in Goa. The meeting is slated for May 4 and 5.
India is hosting the SCO defence ministers’ meeting under its presidency of the grouping.
Defence ministers of China, Russia, and other member nations of the SCO except Pakistan are attending the meeting in Delhi.
Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif will attend the meeting through virtual mode, officials said.