China said on Wednesday that the next round of border talks with India under the “special representatives” (SR) mechanism had been postponed.
Top officials from the two countries had been expected to meet later this month in New Delhi for the 22nd round of the talks to resolve the long-standing dispute over the 3,488 km border.
It had been postponed because of “India’s schedule”, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a brief statement to Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
“Recently, China and India (were) communicating on state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi’s attendance at the new round of SR’s meeting on the China-India boundary issues,” the statement said.
“Due to India’s schedule, this visit has been temporarily postponed. The two sides will continue to maintain communication on this issue,” the foreign ministry statement added.
National security adviser Ajit Doval is India’s SR for the talks.
It is rare – in fact unheard of – for China to officially confirm the delay of the top-level bilateral meeting, which the government, or the foreign ministry, hadn’t even announced.
India hadn’t officially announced the talks either although officials had shared information about the meeting with the media.
It was learned that Beijing had proposed a set of dates for the SRs to meet in September, which New Delhi didn’t agree, and instead had proposed alternative dates.
So far, the two sides haven’t found dates which are convenient to both.
It could not be immediately ascertained whether there were other underlying reasons – or renewed bilateral tensions – that played a part in delaying the important meeting.
An HT report from New Delhi quoted four people familiar with the development as saying on Tuesday that the 22nd round of talks were likely to be delayed.
The 21st round of the talks took place near the city of Chengdu in southwest China last November.
The 20th round of talks – also held in New Delhi – were delayed in the aftermath of the Doklam (Donglang) military standoff in the tri-junction with Bhutan in 2017.
In 2018, ties between India and China evidently warmed up following the informal summit between PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the city of Wuhan in central China in April.
Last month, however, Beijing had said it was concerned over India’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, and added it was “unacceptable” that New Delhi had changed Ladakh’s status. India decided last month to bifurcate Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
China remains the “all-weather” strategic ally and one among the primary economic benefactors of Pakistan, which has been vocal in its opposition against India’s moves in J&K.
The HT report cited earlier also mentioned that a top Indian army officer’s visit to China had been postponed.
“The Indian Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Army commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, is also not going for a visit to China as scheduled,” the report said. The visit was expected to take place this month, but the exact dates could not be immediately ascertained.
A solution to the Sino-India border dispute continues to elude the two countries after nearly 45 rounds of talks since 1960.