China on Wednesday said the prolonged border issue with India should be addressed through peaceful negotiations and not be linked to bilateral relations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was reacting to Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's comments at the Qatar Economic Forum Tuesday that China's military deployment along the disputed border with India and uncertainty over whether Beijing will fulfil its promise on troop reductions remain a challenge for relations between the two neighbours.
"We advocate that we should address the boundary issue through peaceful negotiations and we don't think that the border issue should be linked up to our bilateral ties," Zhao Lijian said at a media briefing in Beijing.
Zhao Lijian said the military deployment by China in the Western sector along the border is a "normal defensive arrangement".
"It is meant to prevent the encroachment or threat against China's territory by the relevant country," he said.
In his remarks, S Jaishankar had said that the larger issue relating to the border row in eastern Ladakh is whether India and China can build a relationship based on mutual sensitivity and respect and whether Beijing would live up to the written commitments about both sides not deploying a large armed force along the frontier.
It has been more than a year since the military standoff between China and India erupted in eastern Ladakh on May 5, 2020 during which there were fatalities on both sides for the first time in 45 years. The countries have made limited progress in achieving disengagement in the Pangong Lake area.
The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points. India has been particularly pressing for the disengagement of troops in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang.
Last month, Army Chief General MM Naravane said that there can be no de-escalation without complete disengagement at all friction points in eastern Ladakh and that the Army is prepared for all contingencies in the region.