India tells China peace needed on border for better ties

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Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu and his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh are pictured during their meeting at SCO meet in New Delhi

By Krishn Kaushik

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India's defence minister told his Chinese counterpart on Thursday that improved relations depend on "peace and tranquillity" returning to their frontier disturbed by military tensions, the Indian government said.

Relations between the nuclear-armed Asian giants have deteriorated since mid-2020, when Chinese and Indian troops clashed on their disputed Himalayan frontier and 24 people were killed.

The situation has largely calmed after military and diplomatic talks but the faceoff continues in pockets along the 3,800-km (2,360-mile) frontier.

India's defence minister Rajnath Singh underlined New Delhi's position on their strained ties at a meeting with Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu in the Indian capital, the Indian government said in a statement.

Singh "categorically conveyed that development of relations between India and China is premised on prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders", it 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 government said.

India accuses China of frequently intruding into its side of the disputed border in violation of agreements signed since the 1990s. Beijing denies the accusations and blames New Delhi for the transgressions.

China's Defence Minister said the situation on the border was generally stable with both sides maintaining communication through military and diplomatic channels.

"It is hoped that the two sides will work together to continuously enhance mutual trust between the two militaries and make due contributions to the development of relations between both countries," Li was quoted as saying in a ministry social media post on Friday.

Li said both countries should take a "comprehensive, long-term and strategic view" of their relations.

Two Indian sources told Reuters earlier that China had pushed for engagement and cooperation between the two militaries but was told by India that could happen only if there was tranquillity on the border.

The two ministers met ahead of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers' gathering in New Delhi.

The meeting is the first between defence ministers of the two countries since September 2020 when they held talks on the sidelines of an SCO meeting in Moscow.

It is also the first visit by a Chinese defence minister to India since the violence in the Himalayas began in May 2020.

(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik, Additional reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by YP Rajesh; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Richard Chang)