NEW DELHI (AFP) – Indian and Chinese leaders pledged Thursday to resolve a long-running border dispute that led to a bloody 1962 war, as a stand-off between troops on the remote frontier overshadowed a rare summit in New Delhi.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had expressed concerns to China’s visiting President Xi Jinping about “incidents” on the disputed border in the northern Ladakh region, where reports said hundreds of troops were facing off.
“I expressed concern on the incidents on the border and said peace and tranquility on the border is the foundation for good relations,” said Modi at a briefing after formal talks with Xi.
“(Xi) agreed that the boundary question must be resolved soon.” The two countries have long been embroiled in a bitter dispute over their border, with both sides accusing soldiers of crossing over into the other’s territory.
Xi, the first Chinese president to visit India in eight years, said Beijing was committed to working with New Delhi to maintain “peace and tranquility” until the border issue could be settled.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18. Modi has complained to China’s visiting president about border incursions – AFP
KG Suresh, a fellow at New Delhi’s Vivekanand International Foundation think-tank, said the timing was no coincidence and that it echoed an incursion when Chinese Premier Li Kequiang visited Delhi last year.
“I think the timing of the incursion is deliberate,” Suresh told AFP.
Suresh said China wanted to convey the message that “you may have the best of relations with our arch-rivals Japan and Vietnam, but you will have to ultimately deal with us”.
Xi pledged greater investment from China, already India’s biggest trading partner, with annual two-way commerce of more than $65 billion.
He said China, which built the world’s largest high-speed rail system from scratch in less than a decade, would look to develop faster train lines in India and develop industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra states.
India has been pushing for more investment to narrow the trade deficit with China, which has soared to more than $40 billion from just $1 billion in 2001-02. “When our two countries work with each other for common development, we can bring benefits to the 2.5 billion people in China and India,” Xi said.