China and India have stepped back from a tense confrontation along their shared border high in the Himalayas, pledging to resolve disputes over territory through diplomatic and military channels, India’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
The announcement came a day after military commanders from the two sides met near Chushul, a border village at the disputed frontier near Pangong Tso, a lake where troops from the two countries clashed last month.
China did not immediately discuss the talks at the border, but officials and the state news media had sought to play down the confrontation in the days leading up to them.
The clashes at the lake, one of several across multiple points of the frontier, resulted in numerous injuries and led to the most serious tensions between the two Asian powers in years.
A statement from India’s Foreign Ministry did not describe the talks at Chushul in detail, but it struck a conciliatory tone, saying that the two countries would continue to negotiate through long-established military and political channels of communication.
“Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreements between the leaders that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations,” the statement said.
The statement referred to recent summits between the two countries’ leaders, Narenda Modi of India and Xi Jinping of China, both of whom seemed intent on setting aside decades of animosity and conflict. They last met in India in October, promising to increase economic and security cooperation.
Each side has blamed the other for disrupting the status quo along the frontier, which remains unmarked and fiercely disputed in places.
China appeared to have stepped up its activity in the area this spring after the recent expansion of a road network on the Indian side of the border. India has been trying to strengthen its defenses in the remote region, where altitudes exceed 14,000 feet.
Friction in the area is frequent, and a series of confrontations erupted last month along several points of a border that stretches more than 2,100 miles. That raised fears in India of a coordinated push by China to seize territory at a time when the world is distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Galwan Valley, not far from Pangong Tso, Chinese troops were reported to have crossed several miles beyond what India considers its side of the frontier, known as the Line of Actual Control, according to news reports that cited Indian officials. The two countries went to war in the region in 1962.
Both nations reportedly sent in reinforcements after the clashes, though information from the remote region is often spotty and tightly controlled by the military on both sides.
The United States, siding with India, has criticized China’s recent actions along the border.
“The Chinese Communist Party has been on this effort, on this march, for an awfully long time,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week. “They’ll certainly use a tactical situation on the ground to their advantage.”
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.