Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomes his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfuduring a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of SCO Defence Ministers' meeting, in New Delhi | Photo: ANI
New Delhi: Delivering a clear message, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu that China's violation of border agreements "eroded" the entire basis of ties between the two countries and that all issues relating to the frontier must be resolved in accordance with the existing pacts.
At a nearly 45-minute meeting with Li, amid the three-year border row in eastern Ladakh, Singh also conveyed to the Chinese defence minister that the development of India-China ties is premised on prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the border.
Li's visit to New Delhi, primarily to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), is the first trip to India by a Chinese defence minister after the border face-off began in May 2020.
Government sources said Singh conveyed to Li that after disengagement in remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh, there should be movement towards de-escalation and expressed hope for a "positive response".
In a statement, the defence ministry said the two ministers had "frank discussions" about the developments in the India-China border areas as well as bilateral relations.
"The Raksha Mantri categorically conveyed that development of relations between India and China is premised on prevalence of peace and tranquillity at the borders," it said.
"He added that all issues at the LAC need to be resolved in accordance with existing bilateral agreements and commitments," the ministry said.
Singh "reiterated that violation of existing agreements has eroded the entire basis of bilateral relations and disengagement at the border will logically be followed with de-escalation," it said.
The talks took place hours after Li arrived in Delhi to attend the meeting of defence ministers of the SCO being hosted by India on Friday.
Singh also conveyed to Li that India wants to improve relations with China but it can happen only after peace and tranquillity are restored at the border, the sources said.
Defence Minister Singh categorically stated in the meeting that military cooperation between the two countries can progress only if peace and tranquility is established at the border, they said.
In a tweet, Singh said: "Held discussions with China's Defence Minister, General Li Shangfu in New Delhi."
India has been slamming China's deployment of a massive number of troops and its aggressive behaviour along the LAC in eastern Ladakh in violation of pacts on border management.
The meeting between the two defence ministers took place days after the Indian and Chinese armies held 18th round of military talks on ending the border row.
In the Corps Commander talks on April 23, the two sides agreed to stay in close touch and work out a mutually acceptable solution to the remaining issues in eastern Ladakh at the earliest.
However, there was no indication of any clear forward movement in ending the three-year row.
On March 2, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held talks with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on the sidelines of a conclave of G20 grouping in New Delhi.
In the talks, Jaishankar conveyed to Qin that the state of India-China relations is "abnormal".
In line with a decision taken at the 16th round of military talks, the two sides carried out disengagement from Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area in September last year.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area.
The ties between the two countries nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area.
Singh also held separate bilateral talks with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Iran and Tajikistan and presented them mementoes. It is learnt that no memento was given to the Chinese minister.
Chinese foreign minister Qin is also set to visit India next week to attend a conclave of foreign ministers of SCO member countries in Goa. The meeting is slated for May 4 and 5.
India is hosting the SCO defence ministers' meeting under its presidency of the grouping.