NEW DELHI (AP) — Defense ministers of India and China have met in the Russian capital to try to solve rising tensions along their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region, where a June clash killed 20 Indian soldiers.
India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted about his meeting Friday night with Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe that lasted about two hours. He didn’t give any details about the outcome of the first direct high-level contact between the two sides in the monthslong standoff.
The ministers met on the sidelines of a meeting of the defense chiefs of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The body comprises China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Krgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
In his address, Singh said "peace and security in the region demands a climate of trust, non-aggression, peaceful resolution of differences and respect for international rules.”
Troops on both sides are aggressively deployed in the Karakorum mountains in the Ladakh region. The two Asian giants share thousands of kilometers (miles) of disputed border. Both have accused the other of fresh provocations, including allegations of soldiers crossing into each other’s territory this week and vowed to protect their territorial integrity.
India’s army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane visited the region on Thursday and Friday. He met with soldiers and local commanders deployed in difficult high altitude terrain, an Indian Defense Ministry statement said.
Earlier this week, India said its soldiers had thwarted “provocative” movements by China’s military over the last weekend. In turn, China’s Defense Ministry accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control and creating provocations along the disputed border.
The Line of Actual Control, the disputed and undemarcated 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) border between India and China, stretches from the Ladakh region in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim.
The standoff is over disputed portions of a pristine landscape that boasts the world’s highest landing strip, a glacier that feeds one of the largest irrigation systems in the world, and is a critical link in China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure project.
The two nations fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. Since then, troops from opposing sides have guarded the undefined mountain border area, occasionally brawling. They have agreed not to attack each other with firearms.
Rival soldiers brawled bitterly in May, and in June fought with clubs, stones and fists, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead. China did not report any casualties, although unconfirmed reports based on photos of new burial grounds say Chinese losses may have topped three dozen.
Accusing each other of instigating the violence, both sides have pledged to safeguard their territory but also try to end the standoff, which has dramatically changed the India-China relationship.
Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks on the crisis have been unsuccessful.