India and China ask border envoys to work on more steps

NSA Menon to travel to Beijing soon,Li stresses talks and ‘broad mind’

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Published:May 21, 2013 2:51 am

A fortnight after Chinese troops ended their incursion into the Depsang valley in Ladakh,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Monday asked their Special Representatives (SRs) to consider more measures that may be needed to maintain peace and tranquility along the border.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon,who is India’s SR,will travel to Beijing,possibly in early June,for talks with his counterpart,State Councillor Yang Jiechi,officials said.

“We took stock of lessons learnt from the recent incident in the western sector,when existing mechanisms proved their worth. We tasked our SRs to consider further measures that may be needed to maintain peace and tranquility along the border,” Singh said after hour-long talks with Li.

“We agreed that our SRs will meet soon to continue discussions,seeking early agreement on a framework for a fair,reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement.”

The joint statement by the two countries said that the leaders expressed satisfaction over the work done so far by the SRs on the boundary question and “encouraged them to push forward the process of negotiations”. Pending a resolution of the boundary question,the two sides shall work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas in line with previous agreements,it said.

“The visit was coming after an incident which was unusual…and the discussions was…‘we need to look into how this happened,what are the lessons to be learnt’. That is where the understanding was to ask the SRs to lead that effort,and they will look into the mechanisms,how they worked,what are the shortcomings,” Indian ambassador to China S Jaishankar told reporters.

The two sides,the joint statement said,noted with “satisfaction” that the meetings of the India-China working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs held till date have been “fruitful”.

“We have had our differences in more recent times,but over the last 25 years,we have steadily built a mutually beneficial relationship. The basis for continued growth and expansion of our ties is peace and tranquility on our borders. While seeking an early resolution of the boundary question,Premier Li and I agreed that this must continue to be preserved,” Singh said.

Sources said that the PM,both in restricted and delegation-level talks,as well as in his public statements made it clear that peace and tranquility on the border is the “foundation” of the relationship.

Li acknowledged there were “some problems” between the two countries. “Both sides believe that,with regard to the boundary question,one that is leftover by history,the two sides have over time established the principles on this question. In the meantime,we have worked together to maintain tranquility and peace on the border,” he said.

“We need to confront various issues with a broad mind and conduct dialogue on those issues in a mature and sensible way. We need to appropriately handle our cooperation by maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas and on the trans-border river issues,” Li added.

On the trans-border rivers,Singh reiterated India’s concerns about the effects on “lower riparians of activities in the upper reaches of our shared rivers”.

“It would be useful for the mandate of our expert level mechanism to be expanded to include information sharing on upstream development projects on these rivers. I am glad that we have agreed to expand cooperation on trans-border rivers,” the Indian PM said.

Elaborating on the verbal assurance given by the Chinese on this,Jaishankar said,“I would really characterise the Chinese response as sympathetic. I think they recognize that we have concerns. They pointed out that they were responsible,that they would not do something which would damage our interests. And essentially what we agreed upon was that we would strengthen our cooperation based on our existing mechanism and now we have to work further on that.”

On the economic relationship,the two sides tasked the Strategic Economic Dialogue mechanism to consider issues of macro-economic coordination,and to suggest possible responses by the two countries.

“I conveyed our concerns about the trade deficit and sought increased market access to China for our exports and investments. I also invited increased Chinese involvement in the vast opportunities in our infrastructure and manufacturing sectors,” Singh said.

Reflecting this,the joint statement said that “while striving to realise the trade turnover target of US$ 100 billion by 2015,the two countries agreed to take measures to address the issue of the trade imbalance”.

Li said another purpose of his visit was to look ahead to the future as Asia is expected to play a more important role in the 21st century.

“Most importantly,the consensus that we have reached during this trip is that the seeds that we sow today will keep growing into harbouring trees laden with rich fruits,” the Chinese Premier said.

The joint statement once again did not mention the One-China policy,just as it was not included in the 2010 joint statement when the then Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao came to India. While the Chinese were keen on mentioning South China Sea,the final joint statement only mentioned Asia-Pacific.

“The Asia-Pacific region plays an increasingly important role in global affairs. The two sides are of the view that the current priority of this region is to maintain peace and stability of the region,promote regional common development,as well as to establish an open,transparent,equal and inclusive framework of security and cooperation based on the observance of the basic principles of international law,” it said.

The joint statement,for the first time,talked about bilateral cooperation on civil nuclear energy,with sources saying that the cooperation will primarily be on nuclear safety. Jaishankar explained that since India and China have the two largest planned civilian nuclear programmes,it made “great sense” to exchange notes.

Introducing a new element in the statement,the two sides said they are committed to taking a positive view of and support each other’s friendship with other countries – an oblique reference to China-Pakistan and India-US relations,or even India’s ties with Japan or Vietnam.

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