India, China defense ministers meet amid raging border tensions

New Delhi, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- India and China said on Saturday they were ready to de-escalate rising border tensions in the eastern Ladakh region after the defense ministers of the two countries met in Moscow on the sidelines of a multilateral forum.

India’s Rajnath Singh met General Wei Fenghe late on Friday in the Russian capital where the two had gone to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting.

“The two ministers had frank and in-depth discussions about the developments in the India-China border areas as well as on India-China relations,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement.

Singh told Wei that while Indian troops had taken “a very responsible approach towards border management, there should be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Wei, according to the Chinese defense ministry statement on its website, told his Indian counterpart that both sides should “cool down” the situation and “maintain peace and tranquility.”

But the Chinese statement blamed the Indian Army for the tensions and said the responsibility to de-escalate “lies completely with India.”

“Not one inch of Chinese territory can be lost,” the ministry said.

India claimed that Singh during the meeting with Wei emphasized that China had amassed a large number of troops “to unilaterally alter the status quo” in the region.

According to the Indian statement, the Chinese minister stressed that the two sides should “work together” to de-escalate the situation “as soon as possible” for peace and tranquility.

Singh said the two countries should continue discussions through diplomatic and military channels for “complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquility.”

It was the highest level face-to-face contact between the two sides since tensions flared up in May near a disputed Himalayan boundary in the eastern Ladakh sector, where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a physical brawl in June.

The Ladakh frontier has been the source of confrontation and a long stand-off between the two sides with a massive build-up of troops along the de facto border called the Line of Actual of Control.

Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks have failed to calm the tensions as troops remain engaged in the impasse at several border points in the cold desert region.

India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday evening said the situation on the borders with China was serious.

“This is one of the most serious challenges facing us in recent years with casualties on this border after over 40 years. We are engaged with China both through the military and diplomatic channels on this, and remain firmly committed to resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue,” the Indian diplomat said at a webinar organized by a Delhi-based think-tank.

He warned that it “cannot be business as usual unless there is peace and tranquility in our border areas.”

The two armies have been accusing each other of making provocative moves of trespassing disputed border regions that both countries claim as their own.

The border dispute dates back to the 1962 war that ended in a truce with the two sides sticking to their claims along the mountainous 3,500 km (nearly 2,175 miles) boundary that stretches from the Ladakh region in the north to Sikkim in India’s east. EFE

In a related development in Washington, President Donald Trump said the United States was ready to help in the India-China border dispute that he termed as a “very nasty situation.”

“We stand ready to help with respect to China and India. If we can do anything we would love to get involved and help. We are talking to both countries about that,” he said. EFE-EPA

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