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China-India border dispute

Does revival of Chinese, Indian troop border meetings mean tensions in the Himalayas have eased?

Ceremonial exchanges revived after protracted military stand-off in disputed Himalayan border area last year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2018, 10:34pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 12:57am

Troops from China and India revived a ceremonial border meeting on Friday to mark India’s 69th Republic Day, sending a friendly signal after a months-long military stand-off in the disputed Himalayan border area last year.

According to Indian media reports, Chinese and Indian armies held ceremonial exchanges, or “border personnel meetings”, at Daulat Beg Oldie and Chushul in Ladakh – two of five designated locations along the 3,488km Line of Actual Control (LAC). The other three locations are Kibithu and Bum-La in Arunachal Pradesh, and Nathu La in Sikkim.

Both sides saluted the national flag of India and delegation leaders gave speeches seeking to uphold treaties and agreements signed between the two countries and maintain peace and stability along the border, the reports said.

The 72-day military stand-off between China and India at the Doklam plateau near the borders of India, Bhutan, and China last year disrupted regular ceremonial meetings between the two sides, which usually take place on important dates such as India’s Republic Day and the founding date of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1.

The two countries agreed on an “expeditious disengagement” of armies from the disputed border area in late August, ahead of the BRICS summit – attended by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – in Xiamen.

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But although the stand-off had ended, the People’s Liberation Army did not invite Indian troops to attend border meetings on October 1, China’s National Day, according to a Times of India report.

The revival of the meetings was a positive sign for the neighbouring countries’ strained ties, according to Wang Dehua, director of the Institute for Southern and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies.

Wang said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, where he criticised protectionism and defended globalisation, also gave him some common ground with Chinese leaders.

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But tensions are still simmering along the border. Indian officials expressed concern at reports earlier this month that the Chinese government was fortifying military infrastructure near the disputed Doklam area.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on January 19 that it was “inappropriate” for India to comment on activities in areas under China’s sovereignty.

Senior army officials from China and India have held flag meetings along the border since 2005 aimed at addressing local issues and ensuring stability.