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India, China set for border talks on Monday

By K J M Varma
November 28, 2010 20:20 IST
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National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon arrived in Beijing on Sunday to hold the crucial Special Representatives border talks with China to resolve the long-running boundary dispute between the two countries and lay the ground for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in December.

Menon, the designated Special Representative to hold the 14th round of talks on boundary dispute with China, arrived on a three-day visit accompanied by key officials of the External Affairs Ministry, official sources told PTI.

The NSA would hold talks with his Chinese counterpart and top diplomat, Dai Bingguo, to break the deadlock over disputes relating to the demarcation of boundaries in Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector and Arunachal Pradesh, which China refers to as southern Tibet. The two officials aided by Indian Ambassador to China, S Jaishankar are set to meet on Monday afternoon, followed by a banquet to be hosted by Dai and wind up with yet another round on Tuesday.

The talks would also lay the ground work for Wen's visit to India next month. The latest round of Special Representative talks from Monday assume significance as it will the final high-level discussions between the two countries before Premier's New Delhi visit. The last round of Special Representatives talks was held in New Delhi in 2009 between the then NSA, M K Narayanan and Dai which ended without much progress. India and China share about 4,000-km long borders.

China has staked claims to Akasai Chin in the Ladakh region and Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing refers to as southernTibet. Though India-China began discussions to resolve the border difference since 1980, the process got an impetus after the two countries agreed to hold talks by designated Special Representatives. The two countries also signed agreements in 1993 and 1996 to maintain peace and stability in the border areas.

In 2005, China and India signed a political guiding principle on demarcation of the boundary. The border issue came up for discussion during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with Wen last month on the sidelines of the ASEAN

summit in Hanoi.

On the boundary problem, both Singh and Wen said they looked forward to early resolution of the issue and asked their Special Representatives to deal with the subject with a sense of urgency. The Chinese Premier underlined the need for both sides to make efforts to address mutual concerns.

Menon, who shares a good rapport with top Chinese leaders and officials from the days of being the Ambassador here, was expected to bring about fresh perspectives to resolve the boundary question which continues to prolong despite 13 rounds of talks so far.

This is his second visit here this year. He visited the country in July as Prime Minister's Special Envoy and held talks with both Wen and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Menon's arrival here comes soon after the meeting between External Affairs Minister SM Krishna with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the Russia, India, China, (RIC) meeting at Wuhan on November 14. It was followed by the fourth round of bilateral strategic dialogue between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on November 16.

During these meetings, India has highlighted its concerns, specially related to the row over stapled visas for Kashmiris on the ground that it is a disputed territory. The issue has become a major irritant in bilateral ties as the recent refusal of visa to top Indian General B S Jaswal on the ground that he headed troops of Northern Command, which included Jammu and Kashmir, had provoked India to put on hold bilateral defence exchanges.

Pressing China to address the issue, Krishna and Rao impressed upon their Chinese counterparts to be alive to India's concerns just as New Delhi is sensitive to Beijing's concerns over Tibet and Taiwan. Officials hope that some way forward is expected to be found in the run up to visit of Wen to New Delhi, who among others was expected to bring about more clarity to Chinese stand on supporting India's bid for Permanent seat in the UN Security Council in the aftermath of the US President Barack Obama's backing for it during his recent visit to New Delhi.

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K J M Varma in Beijing
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