Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Thursday said that India and China were engaged in confidential talks to resolve the five-month-long border standoff between the armies of the two countries, the Hindustan Times reported. The seventh round of talks between the border commanders of India and China was held on October 12.

“Discussions are on; what is going on is something confidential between us and the Chinese,” the minister said at the Bloomberg India Economic Forum. “There is not very much that I am in a position to say in public. I certainly do not want to prejudge it.”

The two countries said in their October 12 statement that they had decided to continue with dialogue to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to enable early disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh.

Jaishankar refused to answer a question about the situation in Tibet and its current tensions with China. “I do not think we should get into other issues which frankly has nothing to do with the situation currently in Ladakh,” he said. “For the last 30 years, we [India and China] have built a relationship predicated on peace and tranquility along the border.” India and China have signed agreements since 1993 to maintain peace and tranquility on the disputed border.

After the sixth round of military talks in September, India and China had said both the countries have resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline amid the border standoff. Both countries also agreed to take practical measures to properly solve problems on the ground and ensure peace in the border areas, it added.

The border standoff

Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. But these talks have failed to break the impasse.

On Wednesday, Beijing said it does not recognise Indian sovereignty over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, claiming that India had illegally occupied Ladakh. In response, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday said China has no locus standi to comment on the matter. The ministry said Ladakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh are integral parts of India and this has been conveyed to the Chinese side on many occasions.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had told the Rajya Sabha last month that China continues to illegally occupy approximately 38,000 square kilometre of land in Ladakh.

On September 10, S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should “continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.