On August 21st, defense ministers of China and India vowed to keep peace on the border between the two countries.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to maintain a peaceful border as the two militaries continue to work to repair their relationship.
The pledge to keep building trust between the two countries came during Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe’s visit to New Delhi.
A Chinese Defense Ministry statement released on August 21st said that Wei, who is also a general in the People’s Liberation Army, while speaking with Modi said that friendly cooperation had become the main component of China and India’s inter-military relations. The statement further said that Defense Minister Wei will meet Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. They will discuss stability and security on the border.
“This visit … will deepen our bilateral military exchanges and cooperation on security, enhance mutual trust and push forward the new development of our military ties to protect peace on the border,” Wei said. In response Modi praised the “thousands of years of friendship” between the countries, also said that his previous meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping had always resulted in good relations.
This is the first visit to India by a Chinese military leader since the escalation on the border between the two countries in 2017.
Between June 16th and August 28th, 2017, hundreds of Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a 73-day military confrontation in Doklam, an area claimed by both China and India’s ally Bhutan. The conflict arose due to China’s construction of a road there, to which India strongly objected.
It was the most serious confrontation between the two sides since the Sino-India border war in 1962.
A report by Global Security clarified that the McMahon Line boundary dispute is at the heart of relations between China and India. China has land and sea boundary issues with 14 neighbors, mostly for historical reasons. The Chinese have two major claims on what India deems its own territory. One claim, in the western sector, is on Aksai Chin in the northeastern section of Ladakh District in Jammu and Kashmir. The other claim is in the eastern sector over a region included in the British-designated North-East Frontier Agency, the disputed part of which India renamed Arunachal Pradesh and made a state. In the fight over these areas in 1962, the well-trained and well-armed troops of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army overpowered the ill-equipped Indian troops, who had not been properly acclimatized to fighting at high altitudes.
Although there is a general framework to settle the India-China border dispute, neither side can move forward with any agreement because a) both sides are “fundamentally distrustful of each other”; and b) domestic politics will prevent either side from making any concessions. Furthermore, according to the Global Security report domestic politics play a major role in the dispute, and neither side would be able to make concessions without angering their domestic audience. Although China is not a democracy like India, the Chinese Government is afraid of rousing a public that is already sensitive about border issues.
Since August 28th, 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attended two summits hosted in China. He also had an unofficial meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, a city in central China in April 2018.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, relations between the two countries have continued to improve in recent months. Xi and Modi met at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in June, as well as at an emerging market economies summit in July.
The two leaders are supposed to meet once more in Argentina in late 2018.