India and China decided to seek a fair and rational solution to their border dispute on Saturday as they focused on the proposed border defence cooperation agreement to avert incursions like the one witnessed in Leh region last month. This emerged at the end of the two-day 16th round of border talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries --National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Yang Jeichi -- in Beinjing.
The talks, which were held against the backdrop of the recent incursion of Chinese troops near Ladakh, covered a host of issues bedevilling the relations between the two countries. They were held in a productive, constructive and forward-looking atmosphere, a brief statement put out by the Indian embassy in Beijing after the talks said.
Menon and Yang also discussed the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas including possible additional confidence building measures, ways and means of strengthening existing mechanisms for consultation and coordination on border affairs and methodology to enhance the efficiency of communications between the two sides, the statement said.
A Chinese statement said border disputes with India will be resolved through peaceful negotiations, with agreement to seek a fair and rational solution acceptable to both sides. "The two sides agree to give full play to the (existing) mechanisms on border-related issues and maintain peace and tranquility in border areas before issues are resolved," a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.
During the "constructive and fruitful" talks, Yang and Menon also exchanged views on bilateral ties as well as international and regional issues of common concern in a candid and in-depth way. The two officials also reviewed the status of bilateral relations in the wake of the recent landmark visit to India of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. They discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest, it said.
The two sides believe that the development of the China-India relationship is in the interests of the two nations, the region and the world at large, it said. They also pledged to sustain high-level interactions, enhance mutual trust, boost practical cooperation, step up cultural and people-to-people exchanges and further advance bilateral ties, it said.
The talks reportedly focussed on the draft of the border defence cooperation agreement, on which both sides already exchanged views. The pact is aimed at creating a new architecture of confidence building measures along the Line of Actual Control, especially in the back drop of the Depsang Valley incident in April this year in which a batch of Chinese troops pitched tents about 19 km inside the Indian side.
The border agreement, in which India would like to incorporate provisions to avert incidents like the Depsang face off, was expected to take shape before the visit of Defence Minister A K Antony to India scheduled for July 4 to 7.
In his briefing to the media after the first round of talks on Friday, Menon said BDCA's aim is to set up mechanisms, which will provide for consultations for communication so that the two sides can improve management of border. About the Depsang incident he said, "We were able to successfully handle that, to deal with that and restored status quo as it had been before tents were pitched."
The successful handling of that led to the visit of Li Keqiang’s high profile visit to India.
Stating that the border agreement would be discussed further during the visit of Antony, Menon said, "Slowly we are strengthening this edifice of both the dialogue mechanisms and the edifice of consultations and the mechanisms we have in place."
On the border dispute resolution, Menon had said right at beginning the special representatives agreed on a three-stage process. Principles part was done by 2005. "We have been discussing framework in various ways, this is most complex" as it will actually translate into the settlement, he had said.
The SRs who were originally given the task of boundary settlement also now deal with maintaining peace and tranquility along the LAC. Over time they started discussing the political relationship in particular on various issues.
In his opening remarks at the talks on Saturday, Yang said the relations are guided by the “extraordinary political wisdom” of Indian and Chinese leaders. "This is one of the most noticeable developments in the international landscape in the 21st century and also there is a good foundation for cooperation between emerging economies," he said.
In his remarks, Menon said thanks to decisions of the leaders of the two countries India-China relations have been on a path of steady growth and development, and today have acquired a significance that is not only bilateral, but also regional and global. "There is no question that our discussions have been productive, constructive and forward-looking and I am looking forward to continuing those discussions today on the various issues," he said.
"I would like to say that India and China are re-emerging countries, not just emerging countries. But it is true that the changes, that through the efforts of our peoples and our leadership we have made in the last few decades, these are truly historic changes," he said.
Menon was assisted in the talks by the Indian Ambassador to China S.Jaishankar and Joint Secretary, East Asia of the External Affairs Ministry, Gutam Bambawale.
On Friday, Menon called on Premier Li and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In his talks with Menon, Li said "China and India, as strategic partners and friends, have enough wisdom to resolve their differences. Both sides should view the border issue from an overall and strategic perspective."
Li called on the two sides to strengthen communication in a bid to narrow their differences on the border issue and work together to safeguard peace and stability in the border area. "I hope the representatives of the two sides could coordinate closely and contribute more effective work to promote new progress in the negotiations," state-run Xinhua quoted Li as saying.
He also called the China-India relationship as one of the most important and vigorous bilateral relationships in the world and noting that the two nations are now facing significant opportunities for developing ties. "China and India both need a peaceful and stable environment for national development," Li said, stressing that bilateral cooperation should be pushed forward, not simply maintained.