Despite handing over a démarche, or formal protest, to India the previous night over the Dalai Lama’s plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh, China on Saturday chose not to raise the matter during the keenly watched meeting here between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Wen Jiabao.
With the world and their own publics riveted by the heightened bilateral rhetoric of the past few weeks, the two leaders sought to dispel the gathering clouds of tension by focussing on the positives in the relationship. Each side acknowledged their differences but agreed not to let these come in the way, a senior Indian official, N. Ravi, told reporters after the meeting ended.
Mr. Ravi’s briefing points avoided any specific mention of contentious issues. “The Prime Minister stressed that neither side should let our differences act as an impediment to the growth of functional cooperation between the two countries,” he quoted Dr. Singh as saying. He added that Premier Wen “concurred … that issues that may arise in the course of our bilateral relations should be properly handled through discussions and they should not become an impediment in the development of our friendly relations.”
But senior officials told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that difficult issues were raised and discussed, especially the recent tension over the boundary question and lingering uncertainties about upstream water projects on the Yaluzangbu, as the Brahmaputra is known on the Chinese side.
In a reference to the growing assertiveness of Chinese border patrols along the Line of Actual Control separating the two countries, Dr. Singh reminded Mr. Wen of the understanding that peace and tranquillity would be maintained at the LAC even as the Special Representatives sought to find a solution to the boundary question. According to Indian officials, the Chinese premier reaffirmed this understanding twice. He said the border dispute was “complicated and difficult” and that both sides must have “courage, vision and patience” in order to reach a settlement that was “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable.” He also noted that in 2,000 years of shared historical and civilisational ties, India and China had been through a “very difficult period” just once.
Without making specific reference to any upper riparian projects, Prime Minister Singh conveyed in his opening remarks India’s concerns about the need for relevant information and data sharing. Premier Wen said some data had been shared in the past but agreed that a proposed meeting of technical experts — the joint expert-level mechanism on trans-border rivers is supposed to meet annually but has been delayed this year — could take the issue up.
On Friday night, the Chinese embassy in Delhi asked the Ministry of External Affairs to prevent the Dalai Lama from visiting Arunachal Pradesh, senior officials told The Hindu. But even though the boundary issue figured in the Manmohan-Wen talks, the Tibetan spiritual leader was not mentioned directly or indirectly by either side.