‘India, China long way from border solution’

Shivshankar Menon

The Indian understanding of meaningful adjustments is, however, different and does not involve large chunks of land. New Delhi believes that adjustments would mean minor territorial give-and-take in the border areas during the process of demarcating a common line.

These extreme interpretations on both sides have meant that China's emphasis on concessions from India in the eastern sector has only increased through the dialogue process, particularly in the rounds after 2005. This is when the SRs started working on a framework agreement - the second stage of what is a three-stage settlement process.

The political impossibility of any Indian government giving up large territory in the eastern sector to achieve this settlement has not been recognised by the Chinese side in all these rounds. Instead, China has thrown back the argument that Indian concessions in this sector is a political pre-requisite for any leadership in Beijing, pointing to Article V of the guiding principles that mentions taking into account "national sentiments".

New Delhi too has its own set of arguments, again based on the guiding principles, particularly Article VII that says the "two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas". India has interpreted to mean that settled populations will not be disturbed, which means Tawang and other populated areas of Arunachal Pradesh will not be touched.

Beijing, however, contests this and makes the point that "safeguarding due interests" of settled population can be achieved alongside any shift in territorial control. It argues that this principle does not translate into recognising status quo in Arunachal Pradesh.

As a result, the final nature of the agreed document will probably not look to elaborate on the interpretations of the guiding principles and instead keep the claims separate from the 2005 agreement. This may reflect lesser progress, but insiders feel it will not complicate future rounds with any new interlocutor. Incidentally, the first draft of the Chinese version of the joint report was a complete articulation of only Beijing's position and since then, it has been an exercise in calibration.

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