China appears to be making ground for claiming some 1,600 kms of Indian territory judging by reports in the state-owned media on the length of Sino-Indian border. Even as the two countries have been discussing the unresolved boundary issue for decades, the state-owned Xinhua and Global Times, an English language newspaper published by the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, have described the Sino-Indian border as nearly 2,000 km long.
The reports about the length of the border were carried in the Chinese official media ahead of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's December 15-17 visit to India.
Xinhua on the eve of Wen's arrival in New Delhi had said the length of the border was nearly 2,000 km long. This Chinese assessment contradicts the Indian figure of 3,500 km for the operational border between the two nations. The Indian position was made clear once again by Ambassador S Jaishankar during an interview with the Global Times.
When asked about the reported tensions in the border, Jaishankar had said, "The reality contradicts any alarmist depiction of the situation on the border, whether in India or in China. We have a long common border of 3,488 km."
The Global Times while publishing the interview on Tuesday suprisingly chose to add a footnote to its report to say that the Chinese government often refers to the border length as being "about 2,000 km."
Jaishankar returned to Beijing from New Delhi on Sunday after Wen's Indian visit. Wen went to Pakistan on the second and final leg of his south Asian tour before leaving for Beijing. There was no immediate comment from the Indian embassy on the reports in the Chinese official media on the length of the Sino-Indian border.
Wen's visit to India took place after the 14th round ofboundary talks. Wen while citing the Indian media's coverage of the situation on the Sino-Indian border had said at the end of his visit on Friday that "not a single shot had been fired" nor had there been any "exchanges in border areas" between the troops.
Faced with negative headlines on the outcome of his talks with the Indian leadership, the Chinese Premier was also sharply critical of the Indian media, saying it was causing "damage" to bilateral ties. Wen had told a group of editors and scholars before emplaning for Pakistan that he understood that the press in India had freedom but it should play a role in promoting friendship. Still, the boundary question has "repeatedly been sensationalised" by the media after which leaders of the two countries have had to "repair the damage and harm", he said.