Indian foreign minister heads to Beijing amid flare-up in border dispute

Salman Khurshid's trip to Beijing next month, ahead of Li Keqiang's visit to India, follows row over alleged PLA incursion in border dispute

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 4:58am

India's foreign minister yesterday announced a plan to visit China as a border delineation disagreement continued, saying both countries had an interest in not allowing it to "destroy" long-term progress in ties.

Amid growing calls in some quarters for a tougher stance over the alleged incursion of Chinese troops in a remote Himalayan region, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said he would head to Beijing on May 9.

"I believe we have a mutual interest and we should not destroy years of contribution we have put together," Khurshid said in New Delhi, without directly linking his visit to the border dispute.

I believe we have a mutual interest and we should not destroy years of contribution we have put together ... I think it is a good thing that we are having a dialogue

"I think it is a good thing that we are having a dialogue."

An Indian foreign ministry official, meanwhile, confirmed reports that Premier Li Keqiang would travel to New Delhi late next month without specifying an exact date.

Lower-level talks have so far failed to break an impasse in the dispute over the border in the western part of the mountainous Ladakh region.

The stand-off erupted on April 15, when, according to officials in New Delhi, a platoon of Chinese troops set up a camp inside Indian territory. India has since called on the Chinese soldiers to withdraw, but several meetings between local army commanders and diplomats from both sides have failed to resolve the situation.

China has denied any wrongdoing, a stance reiterated yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Chinese troops have always acted in compliance with the relevant treaties and protocols between the two countries regarding the peace and security of the area around the line of actual control," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. "Chinese troops have never crossed the lines."

The Chinese defence ministry said at a press conference on Thursday that the PLA was "dedicated to maintaining peace" in the border area, denying Indian media reports that Chinese troops had crossed the border.

The Times of India suggested the alleged incursion could be in retaliation for efforts to strengthen Indian forces on the frontier.

While the Indian foreign ministry has sought to downplay the incident, the army was pressing for "a show of force", the daily said on a page of reports entitled "Dragon At The Gate".

A policy analyst in New Delhi said India had failed to resolve the border dispute because of an inherent "inferiority complex".

"India must get its act together and the leaders must learn to demonstrate firmness in their dealings with China," Sujit Dutta, a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University, said.

"India will make a big mistake if this time it chooses to underplay the border dispute."