India's Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping Agree on Efforts to De-escalate Border Tensions

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, centre right speaks to China's President Xi Jinping as President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula, left, and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi look on, at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Photo: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

NEW DELHI — India’s prime minister and China's leader agreed Thursday to intensify efforts to de-escalate tensions at the disputed border between them and bring home thousands of their troops deployed there, according to an official from India's foreign ministry.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of a Johannesburg summit where the BRICS bloc of developing economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — invited six other countries to join the group, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. ,

India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told Indian reporters that Modi, in an impromptu meeting with Xi, highlighted India's concerns about their unresolved border issues.

The disputed boundary has led to a three-year standoff between tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Ladakh area. A clash three years ago in the region killed 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese.

Kwatra said the two leaders agreed to intensify efforts but did not say anything about what Xi's response to Modi's expressed concerns or elaborate on details of what the Indian prime minister said.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi later tweeted a foreign ministry statement saying that President Xi stressed that improving China-India relations served their common interests and was also conducive to peace, stability and development of the world and the region.

"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," it said.

Indian and Chinese military commanders had met last week in an apparent effort to stabilize the situation. A Line of Actual Control separates Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety.

India and China had fought a war over their border in 1962. China claims some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, including Arunachal Pradesh with its mainly Buddhist population.

India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau, which India considers part of Ladakh, where the current faceoff is happening.

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