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Chinese, Indian foreign ministers discuss border peace at G20

Relations between New Delhi and Beijing have been tense since deadly clashes along their border in 2020.

India and China’s foreign ministers have met on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi, signaling a thaw in their relationship, which has been tense since 2020.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said talks with his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, were “focused on addressing the current challenges to the bilateral relationship, especially peace and tranquility in the border areas”.

“There are real issues in that relationship that need to be looked at, that need to be discussed very openly and candidly between us,” Jaishankar told reporters on Thursday. “That’s what we tried to do today.”

Qin, who is in India for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, met Jaishankar a day after China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said, “China attaches great importance to India.”

She said maintaining good ties between the two neighbors is fundamental to their interests.

Relations between New Delhi and Beijing have deteriorated since 2020 when fighting broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers along their land border in the Ladakh region. Twenty Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed.

Both sides accused each other of intruding on the loosely defined de facto boundary known as the Line of Actual Control. Pangong Lake, located at 4,270 meters (14,000 feet) above sea level in Ladakh, has been one of the flashpoints.

The standoff began in May 2020 when a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers near the lake, injuring 11 soldiers on both sides.

Tensions rose a month later when on June 15, 2020, 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed in hand-to-hand combat – the worst fighting between the two forces in decades.

The standoff continues despite 17 rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders.

Since 2020, China has built dozens of large weather-resistant structures along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh as barracks for their troops to stay in during the winter. Indian media has also reported new helipads, widened runways, new surface-to-air missile sites and radar sites.

In February last year, India and China withdrew troops from some locations on the northern and southern shores of Lake Pangong, in Gogra and Galwan Valley in Ladakh. However, both sides continue to maintain additional troops in the region.

India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi) of the Aksai Chin Plateau, which India considers part of Ladakh.

India and China fought over the border in 1962.