On Friday, India foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that stronger ties “are a factor of stability amid today’s global uncertainties” at a meeting at Xiamen in September 2017.
“We are willing to work with the Chinese side to develop our relations based on commonalities, while dealing with differences on the basis of mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s interests, concerns and aspirations,” Kumar said at a news conference in New Delhi.
Relations between the two countries have been fraught in recent months, as tensions escalated over border issues and Tibet, a semiautonomous region of China. But the statements could suggest willingness to cooperate.
“I don’t think it's a fundamental shift in the relationship,” said Shashank Joshi, senior research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.
“We are still looking at broad strategic competition between China and India, which stretches over the Himalayas and into the Indian Ocean. The statement doesn’t mean India is any less concerned on the Belt and Road initiative or the China-Pakistan economic corridor, but India does not want those disagreements to undermine relations,” he said, referring to China’s flagship program to increase connectivity in central, west and south Asia. New Delhi has refused to back the initiative, raising concerns it could directly link its two bordering strategic foes — China and Pakistan.
Earlier this week, Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharam said in parliament that both countries had redeployed troops at Doklam, the contested site of an intense standoff between the two countries last year.
“The strength of both sides have been reduced,” she said, adding that the Chinese army had started the construction of sentry posts, helipads and trenches in the area.
The statements came after unconfirmed reports in Indian media this week that senior government officials were asked not to attend events to mark the Dalai Lama’s 60th year in exile from China. Events for the Buddhist leader — whom China considers a dangerous separatist — were moved from New Delhi to the Himalayan city of Dharamsala, headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
“India and China recognize that they can’t afford to let these disagreements erupt into open conflict,” Joshi said. “Diffusing Tibet issue for now is one for India to signal that’s what it wants to do.”
Simon Denyer contributed to this report from Beijing.