India PM says border dispute with China can be solved
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday he believes a border dispute over an alleged incursion by Chinese soldiers can be resolved, the Press Trust of India reported.
“It is a localised problem, we do believe it can be solved,” Singh was quoted as saying by the news agency after Chinese soldiers were accused of intruding across the disputed border in the Ladakh region earlier this month.
The incident has marked a renewal of tensions between the Asian neighbours whose relations are often prickly – a legacy of a 1962 border war.
Singh’s statement came after India’s Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma presented a report on the incursion to a parliamentary watchdog Friday in which local media said he alleged Chinese soldiers had advanced nearly 20 kilometres into Indian-claimed territory.
The prime minister’s comments, his first on the dispute, echoed statements of other government ministers playing down the alleged incursion in the western part of Indian-held Kashmir’s Ladakh region and insisting it can be settled amicably.
“We have a plan, we do not want to accentuate the situation,” Singh said, without elaborating.
Lower-level talks between military officials have so far failed to break the impasse.
According to officials in New Delhi, a platoon of Chinese troops set up a camp inside Indian territory on April 15.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid announced earlier in the week he will head for China on May 8, saying both countries had a mutual interest in not allowing the dispute to “destroy” long-term progress in ties.
A foreign ministry official has said new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is due to travel to New Delhi late next month, without giving an exact date.
India has called on the Chinese soldiers to withdraw while China has denied any wrongdoing.
In 1962, China gave India a bloody nose in the war fought in the Himalayan regions of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
The de facto border separating China and India is known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). While it has never been formally demarcated, the countries signed two accords to maintain peace in frontier areas in 1993 and 1996.
Small incursions are not uncommon across the LAC but it is rare for either country to set up camps in disputed territory.
In recent years, the two neighbours have increased their military presence on each side of the border and hold frequent meetings to defuse tensions.
Despite the border tensions, trade between the Asian giants has soared in recent years.