‘India, China long way from border solution’

Shivshankar Menon

A joint status report of the 15 rounds of special representatives' talks to resolve the vexed India-China boundary dispute has concluded that both sides are far from their goal despite some stated accomplishments.

A bigger concern that has emerged is that there are serious differences in interpreting the 2005 agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the boundary question, which is so far the most important achievement of the three-stage process to arrive at a political solution. Significantly, sources said, these differences seem to wax and wane depending on the strategic climate at that point in time.

The proposal to prepare such a report card came at the last round in January from China's Special Representative (SR) Dai Bingguo, who has been Beijing's representative at all 15 rounds and is now expected to relinquish this responsibility. The speculation is that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi might be elevated to a state councillor and take this job up, but there is no information from Beijing on this yet.

India agreed to the idea of the report, but the process has been tough with India's SR, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, expected to hold last minute deliberations with Dai in Beijing this week to bridge some gaps so that the two interlocutors can, at least, present an agreed report to their respective political leadership. Dai and Menon had agreed that this exercise is important to ensure continuity with the interlocutor to be appointed by the new Chinese leadership.

However, the exercise has shown that differences dominate despite positive proclamations. To begin with, the Chinese side has claimed close to 60,000 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh, which may be lesser than its earlier claims but remains significant and includes Tawang.

The Chinese side believes this is in tune with Article III of the guiding principles, which states that both sides will "make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments to their respective positions on the boundary question, so as to arrive at a package settlement to the boundary question".

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