India and China should urgently address ‘prolonged situation’ at border, PM Modi says

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi urged India and China to urgently tackle the “prolonged situation” on their shared border without mentioning the standoff between the two armies at multiple points along the frontier for more than three years.

“It is my belief that we need to urgently address the prolonged situation on our borders so that the abnormality in our bilateral interactions can be put behind us,” the Indian leader said in an interview with US publication Newsweek.

The two Asian nuclear rivals are engaged in an unresolved standoff at border points between tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region’s Ladakh area.

Mr Modi did not address the casualties in the standoff, including a clash in Galwan valley in 2020 which killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers.

"I hope and believe that through positive and constructive bilateral engagement at the diplomatic and military levels, we will be able to restore and sustain peace and tranquility in our borders,” he said.

“For India, the relationship with China is important and significant,” Mr Modi said, adding that peaceful relations between the two neighbours were important for the entire region and world.

Last month, India and China sparred over Mr Modi’s visit to the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh, firing up a diplomatic protest.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of southern Tibet and is reportedly erecting structures in the region. New Delhi denied the Chinese claims and said Arunachal Pradesh has always been a part of India.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing was firmly opposed to Modi’s activities in the region and India replied by stating that the northeastern border state has always been "an integral and inalienable part” of its country.

Last year, China ratcheted up tensions with India by giving Chinese names to 11 locations in Arunachal Pradesh.

India and China have sparred over the long 3,000km (1,860m) frontier, much of it poorly demarcated, with troops reportedly deployed in high alert mode.

On the domestic front, Indian opposition has slammed the Modi administration for not tackling the border dispute by engaging China and condemning the issue directly with Beijing.

“In his interview to Newsweek, a US magazine, the prime minister was at his cowardly worst. His only comment on China’s repeated infringements on Indian sovereignty was that the India-China border situation needs to be addressed urgently to resolve the "abnormality" in the bilateral interactions,” said Jairam Ramesh, Indian opposition politician from the Congress party.

He added Mr Modi had a chance to send a powerful message to China.

“However, his ineffective and feeble response is likely to only encourage China further in asserting its claim on Indian territory,” Mr Ramesh said, calling the reaction “not only disgraceful but also disrespectful to our martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice in defending our borders.”

As he looks to win a rare third term in Indian elections starting this month, Mr Modi and his party are banking on internal security and strong foreign policy as two planks for campaigns. However, he has not mentioned the deepening employment crisis and India’s direct conflict with China on the border region.

Both militaries have fortified positions and deployed extra troops and equipment along the border since, having been uneasy neighbours for decades after a bloody border war in 1962.