China, India Gloss Over Border Incident at Meeting

By Christopher Bodeen 10 May 2013

BEIJING — The foreign ministers of China and India have glossed over a recent standoff along their countries’ disputed border in an apparent sign that the incident will not harm future high-level contacts.

China remains committed to a negotiated resolution of the border dispute, Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted as telling Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid at a meeting late Thursday in Beijing.

Prior to a permanent settlement, China wishes to “jointly maintain peace and tranquility” along the border, while raising bilateral relations to new heights, Wang was quoted as saying by China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

New Delhi had accused Chinese troops of crossing the de facto border between the countries on April 15 and pitching camp in the Depsang valley in the Ladakh region of eastern Kashmir. Although China said its troops stayed on their side of the frontier as recognized by Beijing, India moved its soldiers just 300 meters from the Chinese position. A series of meetings were held and troops from both sides withdrew on Monday.

Since arriving in Beijing on Thursday, Khurshid has declined to speak to foreign media, but he was quoted by India’s The Hindu newspaper as saying the cause of the border incident was not discussed in his meeting with Wang.

“I think they were not offering us that background, and we were not asking for that background,” the paper quoted Khurshid as saying. “There was a tremendous sense of satisfaction that it was resolved in the manner it was resolved.”

Khurshid is scheduled to meet Friday with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi.

The minister’s visit was intended to set the stage for Li’s trip to India later this month that had threatened to be overshadowed by the border incident. While the reasons behind the incident remain murky, its tidy resolution appears designed to ensure a smooth reception for Li as he makes his first overseas trip since taking on the post of premier in March.

Asian giants with more than 1 billion people each, India and China have had chilly relations since they fought a brief border war in 1962.

India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometers of territory in the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas, while China claims around 90,000 square kilometers in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Fifteen rounds of talks have failed to resolve the dispute.

Despite occasional tensions, China has become India’s biggest trading partner, with two-way trade jumping from $5 billion in 2002 to nearly $75 billion in 2011. Most of that trade is skewed in China’s favor, another source of worry for India.