NEW DELHI (AP) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in the Indian capital on Thursday for his visit in the past two years, after troops from the two countries engaged in a tense faceoff and occasional clashes along their disputed border, an Indian official said.
The visit also came as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reshaped geopolitical alliances — with China and Russia projecting themselves as a counterweight to the United States.
Kshitij Tyagi, an official with India’s External Ministry, said Wang will meet India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Friday. Indian media said Wang also is likely to meet with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval before traveling to Nepal.
There was no official announcement of the visit by either New Delhi or Beijing, though Indian media speculated about the Chinese foreign minister’s visit since last week.
“Nothing from us regarding this,” Tyagi said earlier when asked to confirm the Chinese foreign minister’s arrival in New Delhi on Thursday.
Wang made a surprise visit Thursday to Afghanistan’s capital, where he met with the country’s new Taliban rulers.
The foreign ministers have met in Moscow and Tajikistan in the past two years on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meetings. But they haven’t succeeded in ending the military standoff along the mountainous border area in eastern Ladakh that has profoundly disturbed their political and economic ties.
A fierce brawl exploded into hand-to-hand combat with clubs, stones and fists in June 2020 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. China said it lost four soldiers.
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 taking place.
India has rejected any unilateral change in the border status quo.
Indian and Chinese army commanders have held 15 meetings in the past two years but the standoff has continued.
Since February last year, both India and China have withdrawn troops from some sites on the northern and southern banks of the Pangong Tso Lake, Gogra and Galwan Valley, but they continue to maintain extra personnel as part of their deployment.
Both countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along the de facto border called the Line of Actual Control.
The 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 fought a deadly war over the border in 1962.
Since the standoff began in 2020, the Chinese have been building build dozens of large weather-proof structures along the LAC in eastern Ladakh for their troops to stay during the winter. New helipads, widening of airstrips, new barracks, surface-to-air missile sites and radar locations have also been reported by Indian media.
According to India, the de facto border is 3,488 kilometers (2,167-mile) long, although China promotes a considerably shorter figure. As its name suggests, it divides the areas of physical control rather than territorial claims.
In all, 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
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