India will not compromise on its strategic interest, a cabinet minister said on Wednesday, even as New Delhi and Beijing seek to defuse tensions after last month's border clash in the Himalayas.
A "violent face-off" in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh left 20 Indian soldiers dead. While India said both sides suffered casualties after troops reportedly fought with improvised weapons — firearms are limited in the border areas under a previous agreement. China did not disclose if any of its soldiers died in the clash.
It was the first time in more than 40 years that a border stand-off between the two nuclear powers resulted in casualties.
"India wants peace," Pralhad Joshi, India's minister for coal, mines, and parliamentary affairs, told CNBC's Tanvir Gill.
"At the same time, as already prime minister (Narendra Modi) has said, that there is no compromise as far as Indian border is concerned," he said. "India will never lose any land and we will never compromise on our strategic interest."
Still, the South Asian country wants peace but its border and territories are also "very important," Joshi added.
Top military commanders from India and China this week started a third round of talks to ease tensions along their de facto border — also known as the Line of Actual Control, local media reports said. Indian forces have also stepped up deployment along the border, they said.
Former diplomats and political commentators have said the altercation in June was a "turning point" in one of Asia's most important bilateral relationships.
There is a growing anti-China sentiment in India, with many calling for a boycott of Chinese brands. Citing security concerns, New Delhi this week banned dozens of Chinese mobile apps, including the highly popular short video creation app TikTok.
As the minister in charge of India's coal ministry, Joshi also talked about the government's move last month to open up commercial coal mining to the private sector, ending decades of restrictions.
A total of 41 coal mines will be put up for auction, allowing companies to bid for commercial mining permits. The reforms could theoretically reduce India's dependence on imports to meet its energy needs and will likely create jobs.
Reports said India's top coal-producing state sought to delay the auction of coal blocks for commercial mining for six to nine months, fearing weak participation from both domestic players and foreign firms due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state's chief minister reportedly said he didn't understand why the Modi government rushed its decision to go ahead with the auctions last month.
Joshi said as many as 1,140 people participated in an information and clarification session where 50 to 60 of them were foreign players.
Around 329 registrations have been made for the auction, according to the minister, who added that he was "quite confident" that foreign firms will also participate in the auction.