Border row: India, China working on linkage for direct talks

Border row: India, China working on linkage for direct talks

New Delhi: India and China are close to evolving a mechanism to establish direct communication between their capitals to ensure greater coordination against a backdrop of mutual suspicion stemming from a lingering border dispute.

An agreement to institutionalize the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs is expected to be concluded soon, two people familiar with the development said.

India and China are yet to demarcate their mutual border, the legacy of a brief but bitter 1962 war and a subject of concern for India.

While both sides have a variety of mechanisms at the official, military and political levels—including flag meetings, joint working groups, meetings at the levels of experts and special representatives, besides communication through diplomatic channels—there have been no direct discussions between New Delhi and Beijing since 2005 on incidents stemming from or relating to the undemarcated boundary called the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

On the Indian side, the new structure—which will be headed by officials of the ministry of external affairs, but will include the military and other arms of government—seeks to plug this gap.

“We are hoping that it will be there by this year. There is a little bit of urgency to this whole thing. We already have agreement in principle," said one of the two people familiar with the development, describing India-China relations as “very important, very complex and very sensitive".

The suggestion to set up the mechanism had come from Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao during his visit to India in December, he said.

Though the India-China border is described as one of India’s most peaceful—thanks to pacts signed in 1993 and 1996—countless rounds of talks to settle the dispute have not resulted in the demarcation of the frontier.

As it stands, 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 is its territory.

Also, 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", external affairs minister S.M. Krishna told Parliament last year.

“Large segments of the LAC have not been delineated, and this leads to differences in perception as to where the boundary is, which is natural," said the second person familiar with the development when asked about media reports on repeated incursions by Chinese military patrols into territory claimed by India.

“These incidents will continue till we have the LAC delineated," this person said. “But the fact that we have had peace along the LAC for the past 30 years is a great feat."