Beijing says it is ready to press ahead with negotiations on boundary, while Chinese strategic experts say the leadership transition will usher in more stable ties

China is “ready to press ahead” with negotiations on the boundary question, the Chinese government has said ahead of Monday's visit of National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, which has been seen by officials and analysts here as paving the way for more stable ties following the recently concluded leadership transition.

Mr. Menon, who is also the Special Representative on the border talks, will meet his counterpart on the issue, State Councillor Dai Bingguo, in Beijing on Monday. He is also expected to meet one of the seven members of the newly-selected Polit Bureau Standing Committee — most likely second-ranked Li Keqiang, the anointed Premier, depending on his availability — marking India's first major engagement with the new Chinese leadership.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told The Hindu in a faxed statement that China is of the view that the Special Representatives’ meetings, of which there had been 15 rounds, had “made positive progress.”

“For years, the overall situation in the China-India border area has been peaceful and stable,” he said. “The two countries share a lot of common ground on resolving the boundary issue through peaceful and friendly consultation. China is ready to press ahead with bilateral negotiation on the boundary issue in the spirit of peace, friendship, equal consultation, mutual respect and mutual understanding in a bid to find a solution that is fair, rational and mutually acceptable.”

He said China “attaches great importance” to Mr. Menon’s visit, which was described by officials here as an “informal talk between the Special Representatives” on the boundary question and strategic issues of common concern.

Three top Chinese strategic scholars who focus on China-India relations told The Hindu that they did not see the leadership transition, or for that matter the retirement of Mr. Dai in March, as having any major impact on the bilateral relationship.

Shen Dingli, an influential scholar at the Fudan University, said he “did not see” any impact at all on ties in the wake of the leadership change and Mr. Dai's expected retirement at the Parliament session next year, when new State Councillors will be appointed to serve in the cabinet led by Mr. Li.

Han Hua, a leading South Asia scholar at Peking University, said next week’s meeting would see both countries look to “reassure each other [regarding] the conti nuity and improvement of Sino-Indian relations.” The impact of the leadership change, she said, would be “not that much.” “Small frictions will still be there, but in general stable relation with India is the main theme in China’s India policy.”

Hu Shisheng, a South Asia scholar at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), said he did not expect much change on the boundary question following the retirement of Mr. Dai, who has been the Special Representative since the current mechanism was introduced a decade ago. “If there [will] be any progress in the future,” he said, “it could be [because of] accepting and respecting each others’ Line of Control claim.”

He suggested that economic issues, such as joint efforts in dealing with the global recession, addressing unbalanced trade and promoting mutual investments would be one area of focus for relations. On the strategic front, th e U.S. "rebalancing" in the Asia-Pacific as well as the situation in Afghanistan after the 2014 U.S. withdrawal would be likely priorities.

Mr. Hu added that bilateral relations "will be much more stable" under the new leadership because of China's current internal and external priorities – economic development in the former area, and "addressing China's relations with West Pacific neighbors and China's relations with the U.S.” in the latter field.

"So, in whatever way, China needs more stable Indo-China relations," he said. "China would, jointly with others [and] with India in particular, make efforts in building up a new Asia-Pacific order."

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