India and China will begin on Monday the 14th round of talks between their special representatives on the border dispute. During the talks, the two sides will also lay the groundwork for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India next month.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who arrived here on Sunday on a three-day visit, will hold talks with State Councillor Dai Bingguo, China's designated special representative for the boundary negotiations.
The two representatives have been instructed to address the issue with a “sense of urgency,” following last month's meeting between Primer Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Wen in Hanoi on the sidelines of the Asean summit. Monday's talks assume particular significance, coming as it does ahead of Mr. Wen's visit to New Delhi. Officials said the special representatives had been given a wide mandate to discuss a range of issues beyond the border dispute over the next two days so as to lay the groundwork for the premier's visit.
Following the 13th round of talks in New Delhi last year, both sides said they would “press ahead with the framework negotiations” in accordance with the political parameters and guiding principles agreed upon during Mr. Wen's last visit to India in 2005.
Officials said last year's talks were currently at “stage two” of the dispute, which involves finding a framework for a final package settlement of the disputed areas in the western and eastern sections of the border. The first stage concluded in 2005, with the agreement on political parameters. The final stage will involve the specifics of delineating the border.
The long-running talks have made limited progress, though the two countries have committed themselves to maintaining peace and stability in border areas. With a stalemate in negotiations, talks in recent years have increasingly focused on issues beyond the boundary dispute, from trade to regional and global issues.
But the slow progress, officials on both sides say, has led to persisting strains in ties. Last year, there were reports in the media of incursions by Chinese troops in border areas, which officials attributed to misperceptions of overlapping territorial claim lines.
Indian officials and analysts say the process is likely to remain long, drawn-out, particularly with China's claims to Arunachal Pradesh appearing to have hardened in recent years. Last year, the Chinese government voiced strong opposition to a routine visit by the Prime Minister to the State during the Assembly elections, and accused India of “stirring up trouble” in border areas.
Mr. Menon is expected to raise Indian concerns at China's Kashmir policy. Defence exchanges between the two sides have remained suspended since July, after China objected to the visit of Lieutenant General B.S. Jaswal, chief of the Army's Northern Command, saying he represented a “sensitive” region. India has also objected to China issuing stapled visas for Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir, and to Chinese investments in infrastructure projects in the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Talks on both issues have so far made little progress.
Keywords: India-China talks