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China, India to drive tough border bargain
Hindustan Times[Wednesday, January 17, 2007 11:56]
By Manoj Joshi

New Delhi, January 16 - The Indian and Chinese special representatives will begin the ninth round of talks to resolve the Sino-Indian border dispute on Wednesday.

The negotiations between India's national security adviser MK Narayanan and China's Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, who arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday morning, will hinge on the "directive" they received from their respective prime ministers in Cebu, Philippines, asking them to carry out their job with "greater vigour and innovativeness".

The 4,000 km-border is disputed and is defined by the Line of Actual Control. It sparked a brief war between the two countries in 1962.

This round of negotiations were scheduled for last October on the eve of Chinese president Hu Jintao's November 2006 visit, but were postponed for unexplained reasons.

While both sides have been providing anodyne information on the progress of talks that have taken place roughly thrice a year since they began in October 2003, a senior Indian External Affairs Ministry official says the reason for the slowdown is obvious. "Both sides know what has to be done, the question is how to do it?"

He was referring to the fact that though the two countries have agreed on the principles and guidelines for a settlement - suggesting an "as is where is" trade-off - they are not finding it easy to implement these on the ground.

On April 11, 2005 during the visit of Premier Wen to New Delhi, the two sides signed an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles for a settlement.

A clause that the two sides "will give due consideration to each other's strategic and reasonable interests" and, another, that they will "safeguard due interests of their settled populations in border areas" point to a trade-off.

Aksai Chin is the barren region in Ladakh where a strategic Chinese highway connects Xinjiang to Tibet, and Tawang, one of the larger towns in Arunachal Pradesh, a state claimed by China in its entirety.

Professor Manoranjan Mohanty, co-chair of the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi, says that "not one principle can be mechanically applied, the point is to look at the entire border with a perspective of mutual accommodation."

He says, for example, the Chinese claim in Tawang cannot be bluntly rejected, but needs to be accommodated through diplomatic ingenuity.

Besides these "large claims", there are a number of smaller, but important areas which must be dealt through a process of give and take.

While Dai and Narayanan met formally on Tuesday evening at Hyderabad House, the actual delegation-level talks will take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Chinese official will also call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and opposition leader LK Advani during his stay in New Delhi.
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