India on Friday sought to lower the temperature following recent exchanges with China on disputed areas by stating that both sides would continue to talk on the border issue as well as in other areas to resolve their differences. “We have to recognise that there is still some distance to be covered. Problems exist and they will take time to resolve. Till then we have to maintain peace and continue talking. The issues can’t be resolved by stopping talking to each other,” said senior official sources at a background briefing.
“We have our communication channels open. We don’t want our ties in other areas to be diluted or determined by this border issue alone, which, however, is a major issue in our ties. The focus is on not allowing differences to complicate our relationship or preventing it from improving,” they observed.
The Chinese objections to the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh “by and large conforms to the same core dispute.” In the 1982 Asian Games, China objected to the march past by an Arunachal contingent and warned of “serious consequences” after the then Union Territory was converted into a State in 1986. On the stapled visas issue, the sources said India “had to” express its views because the system was “an aberration and an anomaly.”
“We should be prepared to hear this from the Chinese side. They also have a very nationalist core, especially the post-Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. They have more Internet users than us and this section has been very critical of the Chinese leadership which is not seen by this section as being assertive and strong,” said the sources while indicating the perils of nationalist sentiment from one side fuelling similar feelings on the other.
However, the sources admitted that India raking up China’s development activity in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was brought in the public domain for the first time. The intention was to pay China back in the same coin for objecting to development work in disputed areas under India’s control while following a similar practice in similarly disputed territory elsewhere. “We had complained to them in private but this time it had to be made clear that there cannot be different standards on disputed areas.”
The sources also played down reports of dams being constructed by China by pointing out that the projects were of the ‘run-of-the-river’ category. Neither did India look askance at them nor were there international provisions prohibiting them. They also drew attention to the positive aspects of the relationship such as China having become India’s largest trading partner, regular high level meetings, coordination at multilateral fora and peace and tranquillity on the border for over two decades.