External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that the ties between India and China are passing through their most difficult phase, reported the Hindustan Times. Blaming the neighbouring country for the strained relations, Jaishankar said that Beijing has offered “five differing explanations” for violating agreements on maintaining peace on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

Since the border standoff began in early May, India and China have had eight rounds of Corps Commander-level talks. The discussions, however, have hit a stalemate after some initial disengagement. Both sides have made preparations to maintain thousands of troops and equipment in sub-zero conditions.

The foreign minister made the comments while speaking at an online conversation with Australian think tank Lowy Institute. “Now for some reason, for which the Chinese have to date given us five differing explanations, the Chinese have violated it,” Jaishankar said, referring to multiple agreements between India and China since 1993, for not deploying large forces at the Line of Actual Control.

“The Chinese have literally brought tens of thousands of soldiers in full military preparation mode right up to the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh,” Jaishankar said, according to The Print. “Naturally, the relationship would be profoundly disturbed by this.”

He further said that the relationship has been “very significantly damaged”, because all the positive developments in bilateral ties, including China becoming India’s second largest trade partner, were based on the fact that the two countries agreed to maintain peace and tranquility at the border, reported the Hindustan Times.

Referring to the clash between forces of the two countries at the Galwan River Valley in June, Jaishankar said that the loss of lives of 20 Indian Army personnel “completely changed national sentiments”.

“Today, how we get the relationship back on track is a very big issue and we are very clear that maintaining peace and tranquility along the LAC is the basis for the rest of the relationship to progress,” Jaishankar added.

The foreign minister’s comments came on the same day when a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that Beijing is working with New Delhi for “further de-escalation” of the border standoff.

The tensions along the Line of Actual Control started with initial scuffles that led to a pitched battle – without firearms – in June that saw 20 Indian soldiers killed. Beijing, however, refused to release casualty numbers on its side. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.