India says peace at Chinese border key as direct flights remain stalled

By Thomson Reuters Jun 21, 2024 | 6:23 AM

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s foreign ministry said peace on its border with China was critical for relations to become normal, reacting on Friday to a Reuters report that New Delhi was not keen to restart direct flights with China amid a stand-off on their Himalayan frontier.

China has been pressing India to restart direct passenger flights after a four-year halt, but New Delhi is resisting as the border dispute continues to weigh on ties between the world’s two most populous countries, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Asked about the lack of direct flights, foreign ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said “peace and tranquillity on the border is important” for ties with China to become normal. He did not elaborate.

India-China relations have been tense since the biggest military confrontation in decades on their disputed Himalayan border killed 20 Indian and at least four Chinese soldiers in June 2020. Thousands of troops remain mobilised on each side.

Direct India-China flights peaked in December 2019 with a total of 539 scheduled flights. Flights were halted four months later as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, but they have not resumed even though India lifted COVID restrictions on international air routes a year later and China lifted all COVID travel measures in early 2023.

Since the border clash, India has made it difficult for Chinese companies to invest, banned hundreds of popular apps and severed passenger routes.

(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Alex Richardson)