XIAMEN, China — Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed Tuesday their countries need to make more efforts to improve mutual trust and that peace in their border areas was paramount for a positive future relationship, India’s foreign secretary said.

S. Jaishankar told reporters that a more-than-hour-long meeting between the leaders was “constructive about where the relationship should be going and will be going.”

It was “a very strong affirmation at the leadership level that it is really in the interests of both countries to keep this relationship forward and on an upward trajectory,” Jaishankar said.

India last week agreed to pull back troops from the disputed Doklam Plateau high in the Himalayas, where Chinese troops had started constructing a road. The 10-week standoff was the two nations’ most protracted in decades, and added to their longstanding strategic rivalry.

The plateau is claimed by both China and the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, whose external security is handled by India.

It is “natural that between neighbors and large powers that there would be areas of difference, but where there is an area of difference it should be handled with mutual respect and efforts should be made to find common ground in addressing those areas,” Jaishankar said.

The two sides agreed that Chinese and Indian defense and security personnel “must maintain strong contacts and cooperation and ensure that the sort of situations which happened recently do not re-occur,” he said.

“One of the important points which was made during the meeting was that peace and tranquility in the border areas was a prerequisite for the further development of our relationship and that there should be more effort made to really enhance and strengthen the level of mutual trust between the two sides,” Jaishankar said.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi had said “healthy and stable” relations between China and India were in line with “the fundamental interests of their people.” China is willing to work with India to improve political mutual trust, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, and “push Sino-Indian ties along a right track,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Xi and Modi met on the sidelines of the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in the southeastern Chinese port city of Xiamen. The BRICS nations are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Indian foreign secretary said Beijing and Delhi could help build on their relationship through multilateral institutions like BRICS and the Chinese-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Progress was made during the BRICS summit on an issue relating to a major point of discord between the two — China’s ally and India’s archrival, Pakistan.

A joint declaration adopted after talks among the leaders of the five countries Monday said they had agreed to strengthen cooperation against terrorism and named a range of organizations, including the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

India accuses Pakistan of harboring and training militants to launch attacks on its soil. China has repeatedly blocked India’s attempts to have the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad put on a U.N. Security Council terror blacklist.

Jaishankar said that issue was not discussed at Tuesday’s bilateral between Modi and Xi, and that “the counterterrorism issues were largely taken up in the discussions leading to the BRICS.”

In Xi’s closing statement to the media, the Chinese president said the BRICS countries had agreed to strengthen cooperation and work toward a fairer economic global order that gave developing countries and emerging economies a bigger voice. There would be regular exchanges and meetings between their foreign ministers and U.N. representatives, he said.


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LOUISE WATT
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