Guardian News and Media/ New Delhi
It was described as a dialogue, the first high-level meeting in months between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers to address the ongoing border aggression that have pushed the two nuclear-armed countries to the brink of war.
But those hoping Wednesday’s meeting would help break a year-long stalemate during which 200,000 troops have built up on both sides of the Himalayan frontier were to be left unsatisfied.
There was one point of agreement, however. As Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, noted, “relations between India and China are still at a low point”.
In June last year, following several months of rising tensions along the India-China border in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, 20 Indian soldiers and reportedly four Chinese soldiers were killed in the deadliest clash between the two countries in more than 50 years.
Forbidden from firing weapons, the two sides instead fought on the icy mountain precipice of Galwan valley in medieval fashion, using spiked clubs and engaging in hand-to-hand combat, with several soldiers falling to their deaths.
The clash did not result in all-out declarations of war, but pledges of de-escalation and multiple rounds of failed military talks have instead been overshadowed by a year of troop, artillery and infrastructure buildup on both sides of the 2,100-mile border unlike at any other time in history, including when China invaded India in 1962.
Indian army officials allege the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is becoming more aggressive with every passing day.
Though recent skirmishes between the two sides have been denied by the Indian government, army officials told the Guardian that the situation in areas of eastern Ladakh including Galwan valley and Hot Springs remained extremely tense.
“Every month there are two to three face-offs in these areas,” said another army officer posted in the area, the information corroborated by local police and intelligence officers.
“To avoid further escalations we started fencing some areas around Galwan but Chinese objected to it and we had to remove it,” said another officer.
The ministry of defence and the military did not respond to requests for comment.
Indian army officers described the military buildup on the border in Ladakh as “like never before”.
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