India’s envoy to China Gautam Bambawale said the differences between the two countries could only be resolved through discussions

India and China should resume military exchanges and strategic communication between top commanders to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas, India’s envoy to China Gautam Bambawale said on Wednesday.

Differences between the two countries, the envoy said, could only be resolved through discussions.

“Naturally, like any two countries, there are also differences between us. We can only resolve these differences, over time, if we speak to each other about them in an open manner,” Bambawale said.

India and China have a limited military to military links and the only annual bilateral defence exercise “hand-in-hand” was cancelled last year following the standoff. The exercise is likely to be resumed this year.

“An important principle in India-China relations is the necessity of being sensitive to the other country’s aspirations and interests ... We may talk to each other but little progress will be made if we do not empathise with the other side’s point of view,” Bambawale said.

“This is an important pre-requisite for moving forward in our bilateral ties,” he added.

“I have always maintained that if India and China have to live and progress together, especially in the 21st century, it is essential that we engage each other seriously and talk to each other extremely frankly and candidly.”

Bambawale’s statement comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping agreed at the informal summit in Wuhan in central China to take steps aimed at strengthening communications and building trust between the militaries of India and China.

The decision of the two leaders was aimed at effectively managing differences on the border and averting a Doklam-like stand-off, which led to a sharp slump in ties last year.

“The ‘Informal Summit’ was one such example of engagement at the apex level. I hope you will also do the same during the course of this dialogue today. Talking to each other candidly will help in enhancing understanding and thereby increase trust in each other,” Bambawale said.

Bambawale was speaking at the 8th India-China Dialogue between Ananta Aspen Centre, a think-tank in New Delhi, and China Reform Forum, a Beijing-based research institution affiliated to the Communist Party of China’s party school.

This dialogue was also cancelled last year.

Leading academics from India and China attended the Aspen dialogue as well as a separate one organised by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, an US-based think-tank with a branch in Beijing among other cities.

“Only through such a frank, free and open dialogue, will we be able to enhance understanding between ourselves and increase trust amongst us, our two peoples, our two governments, and our two countries,” he said referring to the India-China Aspen dialogue.