The foreign ministers of India and China met Thursday on the sidelines of a gathering in New Delhi of top diplomats from the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations, signaling a thaw in their relationship, which has been tense since 2020.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the talks with his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, “focused on addressing current challenges to the bilateral relationship, especially peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
“There are real problems in that relationship that need to be looked at, that need to be discussed very openly and candidly between us. That’s what we sought to do today,” Jaishankar told reporters.
Qin, who is in India for the G-20 meeting, met with Jaishankar a day after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said “China attaches great importance to India.”
She added that maintaining good ties between the two countries is fundamental to their interests.
The relationship between New Delhi and Beijing has deteriorated since 2020, when Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed along their land border in the Ladakh region, with 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers killed. The skirmish turned into a long-running standoff in the rugged mountainous area, where each side has stationed tens of thousands of military personnel backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets.
The standoff has continued despite 17 rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders.
Since 2020, China has been building dozens of large weatherproof structures along the de facto border, the Line of Actual Control, in eastern Ladakh for their troops to stay during the winter. New helipads, widened airstrips, new barracks, new surface-to-air missile sites and radar locations have also been reported by Indian media.
In February last year, India and China withdrew troops from some locations on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso, Gogra and Galwan Valley in Ladakh. Both sides, however, continue to maintain extra troops as part of a multi-tier deployment.
India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau, which India considers part of Ladakh.
India and China fought a war over the border in 1962.