India, China trying to end army standoff in Himalayas

ASHOK SHARMA

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian and Chinese foreign ministry officials on Friday discussed the flaring of tensions on their disputed Himalayan border, where thousands of soldiers from the two countries have been facing off just a few hundred meters (yards) from each other for a month, an Indian official said.

The video conference came a day before generals in the Ladakh region are scheduled to meet at a border post to intensify efforts for a pullback to their pre-May positions in the region. The army officers have held a series of meetings in the past four weeks to break the impasse.

An External Affairs Ministry statement in New Delhi said both sides agreed that they should handle their differences through peaceful discussion ``bearing in mind the importance of respecting each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations and not allow them to become disputes.”

Indian officials say Chinese soldiers entered the Indian-controlled territory of Ladakh in early May at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts.

They said the Chinese soldiers ignored repeated verbal warnings to leave, triggering shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.

China has sought to downplay the confrontation while providing little information. Indian media reports say that the two armies have moved artillery guns in the region.

China has objected to India building a road through a valley connecting the region to an airstrip, possibly sparking its move to assert control over territory along the border that is not clearly defined in places.

India and China fought a border war in 1962 and have been trying since the early 1990's to settle their dispute without success.

In all, China claims some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh with its traditionally Buddhist population. India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas, including part of the Ladakh region.