Rajnath Singh takes hard line on LAC row, says it has eroded India-China ties.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday raised the issue of the lingering border row with China in eastern Ladakh with his Chinese counterpart General Li Shangfu while stressing that the violation of existing agreements had eroded bilateral relations, and the development of India-China ties was based on the prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders.

A defence ministry statement said that Singh told Li that all issues at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) needed to be resolved in accordance with existing bilateral agreements and commitments. The two ministers held a bilateral meeting on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ meeting on Friday.

“The Raksha Mantri categorically conveyed that development of relations between India and China is premised on prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders,” the statement 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 meeting took place days after the India Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held the 18th round of military talks to ease tensions along LAC in eastern Ladakh.

At the latest round of India-China corps commander level talks on April 23, the two sides agreed to maintain security and stability along LAC, stay in close contact and continue dialogue through military and diplomatic channels, and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues. The talks, however, did not yield an immediate breakthrough.

Li’s visit to India is the first visit by a Chinese defence minister after the June 2020 Galwan clash that derailed bilateral ties. Twenty Indian soldiers killed in the seven-hour deadly conflict near Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan Valley. According to India’s assessment, PLA’s casualties were twice as many as Indian Army’s though Beijing officially claimed that only four Chinese soldiers were killed.

The two sides have been locked in a border row in eastern Ladakh for almost three years.

Despite four rounds of disengagement from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Gogra (PP-17A) and Hot Springs (PP-15), the Indian and Chinese armies still have more than 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre. Problems at Depsang in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in Demchok sector are still on the negotiating table.

On April 19, Singh had expressed confidence in the Indian Army to handle any contingency along the country’s border with China even as he said talks would continue for peaceful resolution of the lingering row in the Ladakh sector, and disengagement and de-escalation were the best way forward.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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