Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said India and China are talking to each other through military and diplomatic channels to resolve the standoff along the Line of Actual Control, adding that New Delhi wanted good relations with its neighbours. Singh, a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security, is the first to comment on the dispute between the two countries.

“As of now, dialogue is on with China both at the military and diplomatic level,” Singh told Aaj Tak in an interview. “India is also trying that tensions should not rise in any situation. India has been following a clear policy of maintaining good relationship with neighbouring countries and it is not a new approach. We have been following it for long.”

Singh added that both India and China have resolved incidents that arose from time to time through dialogue and existing mechanisms. He cited the 73-day Doklam standoff in 2017, saying the situation appeared “very tense” then, but was eventually resolved through dialogue. “I want to assure the country that we will not allow India’s pride to be hurt under any circumstances,” he added.

Asked about United States President Donald Trump’s offer of mediation to resolve the border dispute, Singh said he told his American counterpart Mark Esper in a phone conversation on Friday that the matter would be resolved bilaterally. “I told him [Esper] that we have developed a mechanism already, under which any problem between India and China are resolved through military and diplomatic dialogue,” he told the television channel.

The defence minister said India cannot be arm-twisted and did not respond to a question on whether Chinese troops crossed over into Indian territory.

Both India and China have rejected Trump’s mediation offer. The president had on Wednesday termed the matter as a “raging border dispute” and later claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not in a “good mood” because of the situation. However, the Indian government rejected Trump’s claim that he had spoken to Modi about the situation on the Line of Actual Control with China, or that the two leaders had been in contact at all.

The tension

Over the last two weeks, Chinese troops have clashed with the Indian Army at several points along the Line of Actual Control. India and China do not share a defined and demarcated border. Instead, there is the Line of Actual Control, which stretches thousands of kilometres from Ladakh all the way to Arunachal Pradesh. On Tuesday, Modi reportedly met the three service chiefs, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat to discuss the border standoff.

The dispute between India and China centres around a strategic bridge being built near Daulat Beg Oldi, a military post south of the Karakoram Pass. China has reportedly asked India to stop building infrastructure even on its own side of the LAC. New Delhi, on the other hand, has asked Beijing to maintain the status quo on the border. In recent weeks, India and China have reportedly deployed additional troops along the LAC at North Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

On May 21, India had strongly contested Beijing’s claims that its soldiers had crossed the LAC and entered Chinese territory. The United States had also backed India and said that tensions along the LAC were a reminder of the fact that Chinese aggression could be real, not merely rhetorical.