Asked for his reaction to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar‘s comments at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday that China’s military deployment along the disputed border with India and uncertainty over whether Beijing will fulfil its promise on troop reductions remains a challenge for relations between the two neighbours, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the border issue should not be linked to the bilateral relations.
“We advocate that we should address the boundary issue through peaceful negotiations and we don’t think that the border issue should be linked up to our bilateral ties,” he said at a media briefing here.
Zhao said the military deployment by China in the Western sector along the border is a “normal defensive arrangement.”
“It is meant to prevent the encroachment or threat against China’s territory by the relevant country,” he said.
In his remarks, Jaishankar said that the larger issue relating to the border row in eastern Ladakh is whether India and China can build a relationship based on mutual sensitivity and respect and whether Beijing would live up to the written commitments about both sides not deploying a large armed force along the frontier.
It has been more than a year since the military standoff between China and India erupted in eastern Ladakh on May 5, 2020 during which there were fatalities on both sides for the first time in 45 years. They have made limited progress in achieving disengagement at the Pangong Lake area.
The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points. India has been particularly pressing for the disengagement of troops in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang. Last month, Indian Army Chief Gen. MM Naravane said that there can be no de-escalation without complete disengagement at all friction points in eastern Ladakh and that the Indian Army is prepared for all contingencies in the region.