India and China will make one last attempt at making progress on the border question before a new leadership takes over in Beijing.
National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will travel to Beijing immediately after the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue at the end of this month to meet his counterpart Dai Bingguo who lays down office in March next year.
The two Special Representatives will be meeting after almost a year, having last met in New Delhi this January. The stalemate can be assessed from the fact that there were no talks during the whole of last year.
"The issue was mentioned in the context of the ongoing dialogue between the two countries,’’ Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said while briefing newspersons on a 40-minute meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and associated meetings here on Monday morning.
With Mr. Wen retiring in March, the two leaders went down memory lane recalling their long association spanning seven years and 14 meetings, besides focusing on economic issues.
Although several rounds of dialogue between the two Senior Representatives did not resolve all the differences, these interactions as well as associated instruments such as the inter-Ministerial Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs had largely helped maintain peace and tranquility on the border, noted Mr. Wen.
Flanked by a complement of senior officials and Ministers, Mr. Wen described his experience of working with Dr. Singh as "memorable" and was confident that the new leadership that takes over next year in Beijing will give greater importance to ties with New Delhi.
Dr. Singh noted the elaborate dialogue architecture between the two countries – four meetings between Foreign Ministers in one year besides several two-way high level visits – and pointed out this had branched out into new areas such as dialogue on west and central Asia. The two sides also plan to engage in talks on maritime security.
The two leaders spent some time on economic engagement in view of the Strategic Economic Dialogue on November 26 to be co-chaired by Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and head of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Ping who will be accompanied by a large delegation of business and economic specialists.
Dr. Singh also touched on greater market access to Indian pharmaceutical, IT and service sectors and welcomed Chinese investment in infrastructure to partly bridge trade deficit. China did recognise the need for balancing two-way trade but indicated that this would come about gradually, said Mr. Mathai.
Asked whether the East Asia Summit (10 ASEAN member plus the eight dialogue partners) would discuss the South China Sea dispute, Mr. Mathai said the Prime Minister had emphasised that this forum was important for accelerated economic development and enhancing the economic interests of all participating countries. While leaders will also take up issues of immediate concern, the overriding priority was to build bridges of cooperation. India supported efforts to announce a code of conduct in South China Sea where there are overlapping claims by China and some ASEAN members.