It asserts that the only dispute was over the status of Arunachal Pradesh

A month after India and China held the fifteenth round of border talks, a commentary in a Chinese newspaper has questioned India's claims on Kashmir and asserted that the only dispute was over the status of Arunachal Pradesh.

An article in the Communist Party-run Jiefang Daily, or Liberation Daily newspaper said the disputed western section of the border — including the Aksai Chin region which is now under China's control — was not part of the dispute, underscoring how far apart both countries' positions remained even after 15 rounds of negotiations.

The commentary said: “The Indian side believes that the border dispute between China and India covers not only the eastern region of 90,000 sq km but also the western region of 30,000 sq km and the western region is India's too. This wrong argument, which totally disregards the history, still has supporters in India.”

The article, written by an India scholar in the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, Wu Yongnian, was the first Chinese reaction to last month's border talks, and it underscored a hardening in China's position over the western section over recent years, analysts and officials said.

In New Delhi last month, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, the two Special Representatives, discussed a framework for the settlement of disputes in all three sectors — western, middle and eastern. This was in keeping with the 2005 agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles, which marked the ending of the first of three stages of negotiations.

According to Article III of the agreement, the boundary settlement would be “final, covering all sectors of the India-China boundary.”

While this continues to remain the official position, both sides have repeatedly stressed their claims on the territories under their effective control — Arunachal Pradesh in the east and Aksai Chin in the west — ruling out any concessions, resulting in a stalemate.

There were two different disputes in the western sector — Aksai Chin and the territory from a 1963 Chinese-Pakistani agreement, said M. Taylor Fravel, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has written extensively on the border dispute.

Under the 1963 Sino-Pakistan treaty, which, he said, “contrary to the conventional wisdom in India” favoured Pakistan, China kept around 5,300 sq km of land that Pakistan claimed, but transferred to Pakistan 1,942 sq km of land in the Oprang Valley and dropped claims to an additional 1,554 sq km of land.

“So, China acknowledges a dispute with India in the Western sector of Aksai Chin, but does not acknowledge a dispute with India over its border with Pakistan adjacent to Kashmir. The Jiefang Daily report is not specific enough on this point,” he noted.

Multi-party system

The article said “the main barrier” to settling the boundary dispute came from India and its insistence “that the border line between China and India should be based on the McMahon Line left by British colonists.” It also pointed to India's multi-party political system — where different parties “have different understandings on the China-India border issue” — and India's insistence that China should make a concession rather than have “mutual accommodation” as other sticking points.

It called for both governments to “take a broader perspective, to enhance mutual trust and eliminate the problems” and “to creatively draw a beautiful blueprint for the final settlement of the China-Indian conflicts and problems.” It did not, however, spell out what China would view as an acceptable settlement.

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