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After Pakistan, now China is trying to create a dispute at the border with India as if it were part of a “mission," defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday as India and China held their seventh round of military talks.

“You are well aware of the conditions created along our northern and eastern borders. First it was Pakistan, and now also by China, as if a border dispute is being created under a mission. We have a border of about 7,000 km with these countries where the tension continues," Singh said as he virtually inaugurated 44 bridges in strategically important Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

The main aim of this round is expected to be the preservation of an uneasy calm that has been in place for a month along the border in Ladakh. The exploration of steps to maintain stability on the ground and avoid any action that may trigger fresh tension in the region was on the agenda, said a person familiar with the developments.

The talks at the Corps commander level began at around 12 noon (Indian time) in Chushul on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. The Indian delegation was headed —as has been now for months—by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps. It also included Naveen Srivastava, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

With a harsh winter closing in, there is only a small window left for both sides to reach agreement on pulling back troops from the frontlines, analysts said. According to the Indian assessment, there was also a similarly small window for China to spring any military surprises on India by trying to change the equations on the ground to suit Beijing.

This could result in a spike in tensions leading to a conflict whose impact could be either localized or broader. Troops of the two countries were in close proximity to each other – at some places separated by a few hundred metres – and the worry of a conflict actually breaking out was real, said the person familiar with the developments cited above.

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