India and China on Wednesday agreed to adhere to “peaceful negotiations” to settle the vexed border issue and reach a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution”, amid negativity over Beijing’s blocking of India’s bid in the UN to ban Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar.
The decision was taken during the annual 19th round of boundary talks here between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi to discuss the way forward to resolve the dispute which has bedevilled the relations between the two countries.
Both the leaders had an “extensive, deep and candid” discussion on the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC), which remains undemarcated resulting in tensions between the two sides.
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Both sides agreed to adhere to “peaceful negotiations to settle the boundary question”. They will make efforts to reach a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution”, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.
Besides the border issue, Doval and Yang, the designated Special Representatives, also have a larger mandate to discuss all contentious bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual concern.
Welcoming Doval, Yang in his opening remarks at the meeting said: “Your visit fully signifies the importance Indian side attaches to this meeting and the efforts to further promote the strategic partnership between China and India.
“China-India relations carry special significance. China stands ready to use this important occasion to have a broad- ranging in-depth and candid discussion with Indian side on the bilateral relations, boundary question, regional and international issues and other issues of shared interest.”
Doval in his response spoke about the importance of informal talks between him and Yang, saying “not talking from the mind but also from the heart”.
The statement, carried by state-run Xinhua news agency, said that the two sides will properly manage differences and safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas so as to create favourable conditions for development of their ties.
Both sides shared the view that China-India relations have broad prospects and Beijing and New Delhi have far more common interests than differences.
Bilateral ties have entered a new era of comprehensive and rapid development since Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a successful visit to India in 2014 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to China in 2015, it said.
Both sides should implement the important consensus between the leaders, enhance high-level interactions, tap the potential of cooperation, and promote China-India relations to a higher level, it said.
The issue of China putting technical hold on India’s recent bid to bring about a UN ban on Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Azhar for his involvement in the Pathankot terrorist attack was also said to have figured during the talks. Terming 2015 during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited China as a “very positive year” in bilateral ties between the two countries, Doval said: “It started a process about which we feel very satisfied. There has been an improvement in the bilateral exchanges between the two countries in various fields.”
He also conveyed greetings by Modi to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
Barring the opening remarks, officials maintained total secrecy on the proceedings and Doval himself declined to speak to the media.
Ahead of the talks, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar — who concluded his visit to China today — highlighted India’s stand that there should be clarity about the LAC.
It was highlighted by Modi both during Xi’s visit to India in 2014 and his own trip here last year. But China was averse to accept it and for its part suggested a code of conduct.
Last year, Deputy Director General of the Asian Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry Huang Xilian highlighted China’s reservation on the clarification of LAC, saying “whatever we do in the border area it should be constructive. That means it should be a building block for the process of negotiations, not a stumbling block.”
In the meeting with his Chinese counterpart on Monday, Parrikar said clarity over LAC will bring down tensions between the troops on both sides which aggressively patrol the areas to assert their control.
“We are insisting it should be done in order to really ensure a very stable border as all the issues take place because of perception,” he said.
Marking the LAC is “one of the preconditions of smooth border operations. Without that everything goes by perceptions, which has caused problems sometimes”, he told the media here.
Parrikar also highlighted India’s concerns over China’s projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) especially the USD 46-billion Economic Corridor going through the disputed territory. This issue too reportedly figured in the Doval-Yang talks.
On the border dispute, officials on both sides say the protracted boundary talks made progress and that they also made attempts to avert tensions along the disputed border.
While China says that the boundary dispute is confined to 2,000 kms, mainly in Arunachal Pradesh in eastern sector which it claims as part of southern Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covered the whole of the LAC including the Aksai Chin occupied by China during the 1962 war.
When the Special Representatives were appointed in 2003, the two sides set off a three-stage process.
The two countries first reached an agreement on the guiding principles and setting political parameters for the settlement in 2005.
Officials say the two sides are currently in the second stage which focusses on working out a framework of settlement to be followed by final step drawing the boundary line based on framework agreement.
On the 19th round boundary talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said yesterday that “we have been working to resolve territorial disputes through negotiations and consultation. China completely settled territorial disputes with 12 of the 14 land neighbours”.
Regarding Azhar, India’s UN Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin spoke of “hidden veto” at a meeting at an open debate in UNSC on ‘Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts’ in New York on April 16, while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar called for a review of China’s decision to strike a common stand against terrorism.
For its part, China continued to stick to its stand, saying that its decision is based on facts and fairness.
Defending China’s stand, Hua said that “we oppose double standard in counter terrorism campaign. We have been dealing with the listing (of terrorists by UN) matter in accordance with the facts and relevant resolutions.
“We are also in sound communication with all relevant parties including the Indian side,” she said.
Significantly Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in his meeting with Parrikar yesterday said disputes should be handled properly and ties with New Delhi to be boosted, state-run China Daily reported today.
China will properly manage disputes while boosting bilateral cooperation with India, making contributions to Asia’s economic growth, Li said.
Doval is scheduled to call on Li tomorrow which makes it a rare occasion for a Chinese premier to meet two top officials in such short time.
Doval and Yang are also reported to have discussed a range of issues including India’s concern over USD 46 billion trade deficit with China in about USD 70 billion bilateral trade.