China on Tuesday announced that its Defence Minister General Li Shangfu will visit India this week to attend the meeting of SCO defence ministers from April 27 during which he is expected to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on ending the prolonged eastern Ladakh standoff which has severely strained bilateral ties.
Considered a close associate of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Gen. Li's India visit is regarded significant as it comes amid the vexed standoff between the armies of India and China in eastern Ladakh since May 2020.
Upon invitation, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister General Li Shangfu will attend the meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers of the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in New Delhi, India, from April 27-28, China's Ministry of National Defence (MND) said in a statement.
During the meeting, General Li will address the conference and meet with the heads of delegations from relevant countries to communicate and exchange views on the issues of the international and regional situation, as well as defence and security cooperation, the statement said.
Gen. Li is widely expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Defence Minister Singh and discuss the progress of the military and diplomatic talks to resolve the festering standoff.
Ahead of Gen Li's visit, the Chinese defence ministry spoke positively about the 18th round of the China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting held at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side on April 23.
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It said both sides have agreed to "speed up" the settlement of "relevant issues" related to the prolonged standoff in eastern Ladakh, besides safeguarding peace in the border areas.
The two sides had a friendly and candid exchange of views on relevant issues, said the Defence Ministry's statement.
"Under the guidance of the leaders of the two countries and based on the achievements of the meeting between the two foreign ministers, both sides agreed to maintain close contact and dialogue through military and diplomatic channels, speed up the settlement of relevant issues on the western section of the China-India boundary, and continue to safeguard the peace and tranquillity in the border areas," it said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told the media in Beijing on Monday that the two sides held an in-depth exchange of views on expediting the resolution of relevant issues.
"According to the important common understanding of the leaders of both countries, the two sides held an in-depth exchange of views on expediting the resolution of relevant issues," Ning said.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Monday that the two sides had a "frank and in-depth" discussion on the resolution of the "relevant" issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western sector.
"The two sides agreed to stay in close contact and maintain dialogue through military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest," the MEA said.
On March 2, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held talks with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on the sidelines of a conclave of the G20 grouping in New Delhi. At the talks, Jaishankar conveyed to Qin that the state of India-China relations is "abnormal".
Sunday's military talks came around four months after the last round of the dialogue between the senior Army commanders of the two sides.
In line with a decision taken at the 16th round of military talks, the two sides carried out disengagement from Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area in September last year.
The Corps Commander-level talks were instituted to resolve the eastern Ladakh row. The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong Lake area.
The ties between the two countries nosedived significantly following a fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides have completed the disengagement process on the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake and in the Gogra area.
Meanwhile, in an editorial, the state-run Global Times newspaper said the content of the China-India relationship is broad and rich, and should not be tied to or constrained by border frictions.
"The problems considered thorny in the Western world perhaps can be solved by Eastern wisdom. We look forward to China and India setting an example," it said.
General Li, a military aerospace veteran, headed the equipment development department of the Central Military Commission, (CMC) the high command of the Chinese military from 2017 to 2022 and previously served as deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army, (PLA) Strategic Support Force, in charge of the country's missile systems.
In 2018, Gen Li, along with the Equipment Development Department, was sanctioned by the US government for transactions that involved China purchasing Russia's Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment.
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