China defense minister meets Indian PM as ties warm further

FILE PHOTO - China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe speaks during a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe praised relations with India, describing them during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a friendship dating back to ancient times, as relations between the two countries warm further.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Modi agreed in April to open a new chapter in ties, just months after a dispute over a stretch of their high-altitude Himalayan border rekindled fears of war.

Wei told Modi that China and India had a long-standing friendship, China’s Defence Ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

He said Modi’s trip would deepen security exchanges, strengthen mutual trust, help protect peace on their border and make a positive contribution toward developing their partnership, the ministry said.

Wei is also scheduled to meet Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, where they will further discuss the border, the statement said.

Hundreds of troops from both sides were deployed in 2017 on the Doklam plateau, near the borders of India, its ally Bhutan, and China after India objected to Chinese construction of a road in the Himalayan area in their most serious standoff in years.

There is still deep mistrust between the two giant neighbors over their festering border dispute, which triggered a brief war in 1962.

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