India, China Disagree on Who Sought Bilateral Meet

NEW DELHI: China claimed that a "candid and in-depth exchange of views" on the border situation and Sino-Indian relations occurred between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Brics Summit in Johannesburg. China asserted that this conversation took place at Modi's request. However, Indian government sources promptly denied this, asserting that it was China that had requested a bilateral meeting. Sources made it clear that this was not a regular bilateral meeting but an "informal conversation."

Beijing stated that Xi had advised Modi that both sides should handle the border issue "properly" but notably made no mention of any progress toward "expeditious disengagement and de-escalation" of the two armies in the Ladakh sector.

Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra had earlier told reporters in Johannesburg late on Thursday evening that after their conversation, Modi and Xi had "agreed to direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation" between the two armies in the Ladakh sector.

In an early morning statement released on Friday, Beijing stated, "On August 23, 2023, President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on current China-India relations and other questions of shared interest on the sidelines of the Brics Summit. Xi stressed that improving China-India relations serves the common interests of the two countries and peoples and is also conducive to peace, stability, and development in the world and the region. The two sides should bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and handle the border issue properly to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border region." The Chinese foreign ministry also claimed the conversation had taken place at Modi's request.

However, Indian Government sources refuted this claim, stating, "There was a pending request from the Chinese side for a bilateral meeting. The two leaders, however, had an informal conversation in the Leaders' Lounge during the Brics Summit." On Thursday, New Delhi had reported that during the leaders' conversation, Modi had expressed "India's concerns on the unresolved issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western (Ladakh) sector of the India-China border area" and emphasised to the Chinese leader that maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas and respecting the LAC were crucial for normalising the India-China relationship.

It's worth recalling that India has consistently maintained that China's buildup of troops at the LAC in the Ladakh sector in the spring and summer of 2020, as well as the perceived reluctance of Chinese troops to withdraw from all friction points in the Ladakh sector, constitutes a violation of the border agreements reached with India in the 1990s. India has asserted that normalising ties with China hinges on Beijing withdrawing its troops from all friction points and restoring the status quo as of March 2020.

Further, in July, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, during the Brics NSAs' meeting in Johannesburg, that Chinese military actions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector over the past three years "had eroded strategic trust and the public and political basis of the Sino-Indian relationship."

Chinese President Xi Jinping has received an invitation from India to attend the G20 Summit in New Delhi next month. However, the Chinese side has not yet confirmed his visit to New Delhi.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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