The Foreign Ministers of India and China will meet today in Moscow to discuss the recent spat over the South China Sea, the next steps to resolve the border dispute, terrorism and the forthcoming calendar for high level meetings. The two leaders will be meeting on the sidelines of a trilateral meeting with their Russian counterpart.
With India and China having traded statements over the South China Sea, the South Block is likely to explain that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's comments were made in the context of freedom of navigation and unfettered shipping links in the area and that there was no intention to weigh in on overlapping claims of suzerainty by littoral states.
On the border issue, having made slow progress, India is examining the suggestion made during the last round of talks by senior Chinese leader and Special Representative for the border talks Dai Bingguo to document the essence of the discussions held so far and thereby place them on record so that both sides have something to build upon.
Earlier this week, Beijing took an exception to Mr. Krishna referring to South China Sea as the “property of the world'' and calling for “trade-ways to be kept free from any national interference.” This led a Chinese newspaper to contradict the Minister on the first statement and a Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson pointed out that the unfettered robust economic development of the region had demonstrated that freedom of navigation on the South China Sea was unaffected by the dispute.
The South Block has interpreted China to mean that activity by countries from outside the region should not lead them to prejudge claims by a specific littoral state. India has inked oil and gas exploration agreements with the Philippines and Vietnam.
India's preoccupation is with the block in the portion of the sea claimed by Vietnam. There is no issue with a well that has been in the production mode for a decade. But China is suspicious of India having taken up exploration activity in an area that is much closer to Hainan where it has built a nuclear submarine base. Vietnam is firm in its assertion that the new block to India is in its territorial waters. Things will assume an air of finality in a few months after reports are prepared on economical viability of the block.
The border talks have seen the two sides clarifying, explaining and seeking out each other's views rather than entering a phase where they begin talks of a settlement. In the meantime, Mr. Dai and his counterpart Shiv Shankar Menon have found the forum useful to discuss other issues that could improve bilateral ties. There is hope of forward movement with the introduction of a mechanism to address border issues such as the presence of a Chinese patrol in an area India recognises as its territory and the Chinese don't and vice versa in quick time and immediately clam down on a developing unsavoury situation.
On terrorism, India will be pressing its case for Pakistan to put curbs on Hafiz Saeed, the strategist of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, as part of the need to clamp down on purveyors of militant Islamist ideology. The context for acquainting Beijing with India's concerns is the event of China freezing the assets of six absconding persons in Xinjiang who it fears had imbibed radicalism from Pakistan.