Chinese troops have begun pulling back from the disputed border with India, sources said yesterday, as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) wrapped up a rare summit in New Delhi overshadowed by the standoff at the remote frontier.
The row over an alleged incursion by hundreds of Chinese troops into territory claimed by India has dominated Xi’s visit, intended to reset ties between Asia’s two superpowers after the election of a new Indian government this year.
The two countries have long been embroiled in a bitter dispute over their border, with both sides regularly accusing soldiers of crossing over into the other’s territory.
As Xi arrived in India on Wednesday, reports said 1,000 Chinese soldiers had entered a disputed area in the mountainous northern Ladakh region, sparking a standoff with Indian troops.
Analysts said the reported incursions were likely timed to fire a shot across the bows of new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has signaled he will take a harder line on what he termed Chinese “expansionism.”
Yesterday, a local lawmaker said the troops had begun pulling back, confirming a report by the Press Trust of India news agency.
“The Chinese troops have started going back,” the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.
“The Indian soldiers are also retreating, but they will continue their vigil,” he said.
India’s Ministry of Defence refused to comment on the report.
China and India fought a brief but bloody war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
Small incursions are common across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border that runs 4,000km across Ladakh.
Xi, the first Chinese president to visit India in eight years, said after talks with Modi on Thursday that Beijing was committed to working with New Delhi to maintain “peace and tranquility” until the border issue could be settled.
Modi said he had expressed his concerns to Xi and that peace on the border was “the foundation for good relations.”
During his visit Xi pledged greater investment from China, already India’s biggest trading partner, with annual two-way commerce of more than US$65 billion.
He said China, which built the world’s largest high-speed rail system from scratch in less than a decade, would look to develop faster train lines in India and build industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra states.
India has been pushing for more investment to narrow the trade deficit with China, which has soared to more than US$40 billion from just US$1 billion in 2001-2002.
Modi is eager to secure Chinese funding to fulfil his election pledge to overhaul his country’s crumbling infrastructure, which has held back economic growth in the country of 1.2 billion people.
Xi was to wrap up his India visit yesterday after meeting the parliamentary speaker and Sonia Gandhi, head of the former ruling Congress Party.
About 10 Tibetan protesters shouted slogans outside the Taj Palace hotel in Delhi, where the meetings were held, before being taken away by police.
A number of pro-Tibet protests have been held in New Delhi during Xi’s visit, a reminder of the other irritant in India-China ties — the presence of the Dalai Lama.
Meanwhile, pronouncing foreign leaders’ names is a headache for newsreaders the world over, but yesterday it proved the downfall of one Indian newscaster, who mistook the visiting Chinese president’s name for the Roman numeral XI, calling him “Eleven Jinping” on air.
The blunder occurred late on Thursday night in a report by India’s public broadcaster Doordarshan on Jinping’s high-profile first state visit to India.
Local news site Quartz yesterday quoted Doordarshan chief executive Jawahar Sircar as saying the newscaster had been sacked and steps had been taken to avoid a repeat of such an incident.
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