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Building on Atal, Modi to move on China border talks

The two leaders will stress on maintaining peace and tranquility till the vexed boundary issue is resolved.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: September 18, 2014 8:01:37 am
modi-china-L Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Sabarmati river front in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. (Source: PTI photo)

Invoking former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to China in 2003, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to convey to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday his government’s decision to continue with the Special Representatives’ talks on the border dispute.

Top government sources told The Indian Express that the decision to appoint a new Special Representative (SR) from the Indian side has been taken and may be announced “soon”. Significantly, the Chinese Special Representative on border talks, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, is accompanying Xi on his visit. With 17 rounds of border talks having been held since 2003, the approval of the SR mechanism is seen as a significant step forward.

While there was no official word about Modi and Xi’s 22-minute meeting at Hyatt in Ahmedabad and their conversation over dinner at the Sabarmati riverfront, sources said the effort from both sides was to seize the “once-in-a-decade” opportunity of a Chinese President’s visit to give renewed thrust to border negotiations. This is only the third presidential visit in the last three decades — after Hu Jintao in 2006 and Jiang Zemin in 1996.

To keep the atmosphere warm and conducive for “constructive” talks, South Block sources said the joint statement would not mention the “One-India” policy raised by India’s political leadership publicly in the last few weeks. In June, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had raised this issue with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. During her media interaction earlier this month, she said, “When China’s Foreign Minister was here, he was told, ‘If we believe in One China policy, you should also believe in One India policy’.”

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Any such mention would have also meant reciprocity — a reference to One China policy, which was first dropped from a joint statement in 2010 during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to New Delhi.

Modi’s reiteration of the commitment to continuing with the SR-level talks is significant since it was during Vajpayee’s China visit in June 2003 that a Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation was signed. That was the first comprehensive document on development of bilateral relations signed at the highest level between India and China.

The two sides had also agreed on a border trade protocol to add a border crossing between Sikkim and Tibet Autonomous Region — then seen as China’s official recognition of Sikkim as a part of India. It was during this meeting that SRs were appointed to explore an overall framework for boundary settlement.

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In the joint statement, according to sources, the two sides are expected to express satisfaction over the work done so far by the SRs on the boundary issue and ask them to speed up negotiations. The two leaders will stress on maintaining peace and tranquility till the vexed boundary issue is resolved.

The two sides will also acknowledge the working of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in October last year during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China, and take note of the fruitful meetings of the India-China Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs held so far.

Sources said Chinese Minister for National Development Xu Shaoshi and Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng will attend the delegation-level talks.

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First published on: 18-09-2014 at 04:03:11 am
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