Two sides committed to resolving dispute through dialogue, says Beijing

The scheduled November 18 meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia, could help draw a line over recent strains between both countries over military deployments along the disputed border, Chinese officials and analysts said on Wednesday.

“It is a fact that there are boundary disputes between China and India, but the two sides are committed to resolving the dispute through dialogue and consultations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said at a briefing, when asked about this week's meeting and India's recently announced $13 billion military modernisation plan, which reportedly includes deploying an additional 1,00,000 troops along the disputed border with China.

“We will take further measures to enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples,” he said. “At the moment the two sides are in close contact over the special representatives meeting on the border issue [to take place in New Delhi on November 28]. And, both sides have expressed the will to enhance cooperation.”

In recent days, however, in their editorial pages, China's State media outlets have launched a coordinated attack against India's deployment plans, warning New Delhi that any move to beef up border security would increase tensions. Defence Minister A.K. Antony said this week that the move was triggered by concerns in New Delhi over Beijing's rapidly increasing military capabilities and infrastructure investments in border areas.

Both the Chinese People's Liberation Army's (PLA) official newspaper and the Communist Party-runChina Youth Daily, in articles this week, described the military upgradation as a move to “contain” China.

While thePLA Dailysaid India had “begun to consider China as an opponent,” theChina Youth Dailywarned the troop increase would “go nowhere.” “India's move to send an additional 1,00,000 soldiers to the China-India border areas is consistent with its earlier actions aimed at containing China,” it said, adding the “sensitive move” would increase tension along the border.

While Chinese officials say the opinions of newspapers do not represent the government's views, analysts here acknowledge that editorials in newspapers such as thePLA Dailydo reflect certain views, prevalent in a section of the Communist Party and military leadership, calling for China to take a more assertive position in disputes with neighbours.

A meeting between Dr. Singh and Mr. Wen could help draw a line over these differences and send a signal to help “address prevailing misperceptions,” said Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS).

“The meeting is a very good development, as was the case last December when Premier Wen visited New Delhi and the two sides decided to hold regular meetings between heads of state.”

He said since then, the leaders had not met often enough, but there was some progress on political issues, such as agreeing to resume the annual defence dialogue after it was suspended last year. “There are still some issues, such as the reports of India's decision to increase military deployment, which have not been addressed,” he added. “The two sides might like to discuss this to reduce what may or may not be tension along the border.”

Besides the issue over the military deployments, Mr. Zhao said the Chinese State media had, in recent weeks, also taken exception to India's involvement with Vietnam in exploration projects in the disputed South China Sea. “We hope India can play a more fair role in the dispute, which is an issue between China and Philippines, Vietnam and other countries,” he said.

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