India said relations with China could not be normalized until their troops retreated from the disputed border, but Beijing struck a conciliatory tone during a meeting of their foreign ministers in New Delhi on Friday.
Since hand-to-hand combat killed 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh in June 2020, both countries have deployed thousands of troops along the high-altitude border. Senior military officers’ talks have made little progress.
“I was very honest in my discussions with the Chinese foreign minister, particularly in conveying our national sentiments,” India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said at a news conference following his three-hour meeting with Wang Yi.
“The frictions and tensions that have arisen as a result of China’s deployments since April 2020 cannot be reconciled with the two neighbors’ normal relationship.”
Wang stated in a statement that China and India should collaborate to promote global peace and stability.
“The two sides should… put the differences on the boundary issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and adhere to the correct bilateral development direction,” he said.
“China does not pursue the so-called “unipolar Asia” and respects India’s traditional role in the region. The whole world will pay attention when China and India work hand in hand.”
Jaishankar, a former ambassador to Beijing, said it was at China’s request that India did not announce Wang’s trip before his arrival in the capital late on Thursday.
Wang met India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, who also pressed him for a de-escalation at the border.
It was not immediately clear if India offered to pull back its troops if China did.
In a statement on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said Wang called for transitioning the border issue from a state of emergency response to normal management as soon as possible.
Both agreed to speed up the resolution of remaining issues, properly manage the situation on the ground and avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations, it added.
Wang and Jaishankar also discussed their nations’ approaches to tackling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Both of us agreed on the importance of an immediate ceasefire, as well as a return to diplomacy,” Jaishankar said.
India and China each consider Russia a friend and have rejected Western calls for condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special military operation”.
Wang, who visited Pakistan and Afghanistan earlier this week, is set to fly to the Himalayan nation of Nepal later on Friday during a whirlwind tour of South Asia, where China is trying to strengthen its influence.
Before his arrival, Wang drew a rebuke from India for remarks in Pakistan on disputed Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region each rules in part but claims in full, an issue on which China has generally backed its close ally, Pakistan.