India-China negotiations are yet to press on to resolve a standoff over a contested portion of their Himalayan frontier, India’s defence minister said on Wednesday, as thousands of troops from both sides were facing a freezing mountain winter.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that several rounds of diplomatic and military talks aimed at de-escalating the worst border standoff between nuclear-armed neighbours in decades had achieved “no meaningful outcome.”
“Singh said during an interview with Reuters partner ANI, “If the status quo remains, it is clear that the deployment will not collapse.
Although, he added, the two sides were already exchanging messages about the situation at the border and there was another round of military talks in the offing.
In June, tensions soared after troops clashed in hand-to-hand combat in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, bordering the Tibetan plateau controlled by China.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed, with an unknown number of casualties suffered by China, and their military strength expanded on both sides, transferring troops, arms and equipment to the high-altitude desert area.
Officials in New Delhi said last month that several meetings had been held between Indian and Chinese officials to find means of introducing a phased withdrawal.
Singh said, “Our hope is that some positive outcome can be achieved through talks.”
In the disputed region, India has deployed nearly 50,000 soldiers, some at altitudes of over 15,000 feet, where insufficient oxygen and freezing winter temperatures can be life-threatening.
India and China share an undemarked 3,800-km-long frontier, where their troops have previously adopted long-standing procedures to prohibit any weapons from being used on the border.
But since the Galwan incident, tensions have flared and both armed sides, which fought a border war in 1962, have accused each other of shooting into the air in September.