New Delhi: With a new Chinese leadership readying to take over the reins of the country’s administration, a Chinese official said on Thursday that India and China should make compromises to sort out their long-running border dispute.
Analysts view his comments as a departure from the past, given that previous rounds of dialogues on the dispute had not shown any signs of progress.
India’s national security adviser Shivshankar Menon is set to visit Beijing on 3 and 4 December for the last round of talks on the boundary with the present Chinese administration.
Li Junru, an official of the Chinese Communist Party, described the dispute—the legacy of a short border war in 1962—as a “headache”.
“We did have some unhappy and unfortunate incidents in this regard in the past and the border issue has hindered our further development,” said Li, who is on a visit to South Asian nations to familiarize governments in the region about the changes in China, following the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party this month.
The conference saw President Hu Jintao name vice-president Xi Jinping as his successor while Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is to be replaced by vice premier Li Keqiang. Both are to take charge in March as part of China’s once-in-a-decade leadership change.
“I think we should try and turn over a new page as soon as possible because this will only benefit people of both countries... I think what we should do is to make compromises, meet each other half way,” Li told reporters—a comment cautiously welcomed by analysts.
“I don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand but the question is will it be an equitable compromise that will respect and protect each other’s interests?” said C.U. Bhaskar, former head of the National Maritime Foundation think-tank based in New Delhi.
Several rounds of talks to resolve the dispute have not yielded results. China claims 90,000 sq. km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and occupies around 38,000 sq. km in Jammu and Kashmir, which India claims as its territory. Besides this, under the China-Pakistan “boundary agreement signed in March 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km of Indian territory in PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) to China”, former foreign minister S.M. Krishna told Parliament two years ago.
Despite it being undemarcated, the border has been peaceful thanks to agreements signed in 1993 and 1996. In 2005, India and China agreed not to disturb settled populations while resolving the problem—taken to mean that India would keep Arunachal Pradesh and China would keep Aksai Chin, Bhaskar said.
A person familiar with the developments in New Delhi said the government will “wait and see” how things work out with the new administration. “So far the indications are that the new administration would continue with the policies of the old one,” this person said. “There has been no sign of flexibility in the Chinese position in recent rounds of talks. We also need to see how this official’s views are reflected in government.”
On the South China Sea dispute between China and its neighbours—Vietnam and the Philippines in particular—Li said Chinese claims of the entire sea being within its territorial waters was in accordance with history and tradition. Stating that the rival territorial claims rose after the discovery of energy reserves in the region, Li said: “We don’t want to use force or intimidation... we not will not act recklessly. (But) if someone uses force against us, we will not sit quiet.”