Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to “intensity efforts” to deescalate tensions at their contested border, in a rare face-to-face meeting since a deadly clash strained relations more than three years ago.
Modi and Xi, who are in Johannesburg for the BRICS economic group meeting, had a conversation on the sidelines of the summit, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters.
Face-to-face meetings between the leaders of India and China, the world’s two most populous nations, are rare.
The disputed border has long been a source of friction between New Delhi and Beijing, with the agitation spilling into a 1962 war that ended in a Chinese victory. In the ensuing years, an ill-defined de facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has split the two nuclear powers.
“(Modi) underlined that the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas, and observing and respecting the LAC are essential for the normalization of the India-China relationship,” Kwatra said.
In a statement Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two leaders “had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on current China-India relations” among other interests.
“President Xi stressed that improving China-India relations serves the common interests of the two countries and peoples,” it added. “The two sides should bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and handle properly the border issue so as to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border region.”
The meeting, which will be seen as a step toward mending their fraught relationship, comes one week after India and China engaged in their 19th round of talks to resolve their border issue.
“The two sides had a positive, constructive and in-depth discussion on the resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western Sector,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Tensions between the two countries soured significantly after a deadly clash in Aksai Chin-Ladakh in 2020, and escalated last December when a brawl between troops from both sides in the Tawang sector of India’s northeastern territory of Arunachal Pradesh resulted in minor injuries.