A top Chinese official on Tuesday said China had underlined its willingness to address India’s concerns about the boundary dispute and trans-border rivers through agreements signed during last week’s visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
While the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) would be a “guarantor” for peace and help avoid “mistakes” such as face-offs, the Chinese Government would also not “seek its self-interest” in managing river waters, said Huang Xilian, a Counsellor in the Foreign Ministry’s Asia Department, in an interaction here with Indian journalists.
The BDCA agreement formalised and expanded confidence-building measures, such as no tailing of patrols and no use of force in face-off situations.
Asked if the agreement would prevent the recurrence of incidents such as the three-week-long stand-off in Depsang in April that was sparked by Chinese troops pitching a tent in disputed territory, Mr. Huang said, “There is a saying in China that between two neighbours, if you have a common fence, of course sometimes there will be some rift. But if you look at some of the borders in the world, you will realise this is a border of peace and tranquility… Hyping up this kind of issue won’t help.”
The BDCA would serve as a “new guarantor” for security, he said, building upon earlier agreements in 1993, 1996 and 2005 to establish peace and tranquility and political parameters to settle the boundary question. “We should be even more confident after signing this agreement,” he said.
He said it was “natural” that along the border “there are sometimes such mistakes”. “But as long as both sides abide by relevant agreements… peace and tranquility is ensured. This is a very important agreement which regulates some of the behaviours of both sides”.
Mr. Huang, an experienced diplomat who handles India affairs, highlighted an agreement on transboundary rivers as another key outcome of Dr. Singh’s visit. The agreement expanded the time frame for sharing hydrological data, and also for the first time widened the scope of the current expert-level mechanism to include any issues of interest, beyond sharing data. China, however, stopped short of explicitly agreeing to provide specific information related to its on-going projects.
Mr. Huang said China had “overcome a lot of difficulties in remote areas in order to provide hydrological data in the flood season, just to help India tackle and prevent disasters” such as artificial lakes. “We are going to further strengthen cooperation on transborder rivers,” he said, adding that “Indians can be assured China will not seek self-interest, and we will continue to take care of your concerns”.
He said Dr. Singh’s visit had taken on “symbolic” significance, reflected in the special treatment accorded to the Prime Minister. “This was the first time that a Chinese Premier accompanied a foreign leader to visit the Forbidden City”, he said. Dr. Singh also met with the retired Premier Wen Jiabao, who had not hosted any other foreign leader in the months since his retirement in March.
On trade ties, the Chinese official said the government was keen to take forward talks on a regional trade agreement, and assuage concerns about the trade imbalance by taking forward investments, particularly through industrial parks.
He said China was “looking forward to signing” an agreement to liberalise the visa regime to “facilitate exchange of visits and mutual investments”. Signing of the agreement was put on hold because India viewed the timing as inappropriate after China issued two stapled visas to archers from Arunachal Pradesh.
Asked about the deal, he said, “We should always be optimistic about the future of bilateral relations, since it is moving ahead, not moving backward”.