China, India must stay away from Himalayan border confrontation – Indian minister

India and China must find a way out of a potential confrontation in the western Himalayas, India’s foreign minister said on Thursday, fearing the militarized and disputed border could lead to conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Both armies have strengthened their positions and deployed large numbers of troops and equipment over the last three years, after clashes in which 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers died in close combat, without any shots being fired.

“We have to find a way to disengage because I think the current impasse is not serving China’s interests,” Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told reporters in New Delhi.

“The fact is that relations are affected and will continue to be. If the situation is expected to be normal while the border situation is not normal, these expectations are unfounded,” he said.

Several rounds of military and diplomatic discussions have helped defuse tensions between the two opposing armies, but Jaishankar in March described the situation as fragile and dangerous.

Mr Jaishankar said the two governments remained in contact and several military and diplomatic mechanisms were in place to allow the two sides to communicate.

“This mechanism keeps working because, at the end of the day, shedding is a very detailed process… all of this is going to keep happening,” he says.

According to Mr Jaishankar, New Delhi had indicated to Beijing, even before the May 2020 border clash, that “we are observing your troop movements which, in our opinion, are against our agreement”.

India and China share a 3,800 km border, much of which is poorly demarcated and fought a brief but bloody war over it in 1962.

Relations have been rebuilt following a series of border agreements reached since the 1990s and China is now India’s second largest trading partner.

However, India is a member of the so-called “Quad” strategic security group, alongside Australia, Japan and the United States. The group was formed in 2007 to keep pace with China’s growing economic and military might in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beijing has criticized the Quad as an exclusive US-led bloc aimed at curbing China’s rise.

Serena Hoyles

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