India and China will not rush to resolve differences over the disputed border while there has been steady progress in the overall relationship, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said on Friday, stressing that "it helps to remain cautious and vigilant".
"It helps to remain cautious and vigilant and careful because it is not a relationship that has finally overcome the difficult issues that caused us to actually come into a confrontation," Khurshid told the Strait Times in Singapore.
While both countries are determined to resolve these issues, he said, "we are also very clear that it does not help to hasten resolution if you are not ready".
Khurshid's comment interestingly coincides with defence minister AK Antony's visit to Beijing, the first Indian defence minister to visit China in seven years.
During the visit, the two sides were expected to have advanced negotiations on the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), a new mechanism suggested by China last year for improving security at the borders, and military exercises.
During two days of talks in Bejing last month between the Special Representatives (SRs), India and China discussed putting in place additional confidence-building measures (CBMs) and strengthening mechanisms for communication along the border.
Both sides also tried to push forward the negotiations to agree to a framework to settle the boundary dispute.
As the Line of Actual Control has never been demarcated, both sides have been carrying out patrols in disputed areas up to their claim lines. In April, Chinese troops pitched tents in Depsang in eastern Ladakh that is claimed by both sides.
While officials did not see the Chinese incursion as threatening, the incident raised serious concerns because the move was seen as violating standard operating patrolling procedures that had been in place for decades, and the stand-off took as long as three weeks to be resolved.
Khurshid referred to the 16th round of Special Representatives' talks and said, "We know there are some difficult issues that need to be resolved but we also know we have in place some mechanisms that addresses those issues from going out of hand. The need is to strengthen those mechanisms."
Asked about the new Chinese leadership and its posture towards India, Khurshid said the leaders have "signalled very positively" and Premier Li Keqiang made "a good impression" during his visit to New Delhi in May.
"He truly represents the new generation of leadership in China. He is an open, outgoing, comforting person, familiar with the way the diplomatic exercises are done in our times. I think he would build a very good relationship with our leadership."
While the bilateral negotiations are on, China is watchful of India's expanding strategic ties with the US and Japan.
Last month, defence minister Itsunori Onodera said Japan would use Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) loans to bolster the militaries of friendly nations.
Asked about this, Khurshid said, "We do have Japanese ODA but I don't think they have ever discussed linking it with defence. But they have sought to supply to India amphibious aircraft which they don't share with most people."
While noting that the Japanese, in keeping with their law, would not have any lethal equipment or weapon on the aircraft given to India, he said "the craft itself is very important".
"We are looking at which is the best way this matter can be taken forward."
On Pakistan, which recently saw a change in government, Khurshid said, "We are responding to it with an open mind and in a positive attitude and hope we can move forward rather than look back at what happened in the past."