Going beyond a conversation on the borders, Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question on Wednesday sought to align perceptions on a string of topics that ranged from rebalancing trade, situation in Afghanistan to New Delhi security concerns regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Highly-placed sources clarified that while “terrorism” was on the agenda of talks, Ajit Doval, India’s Special Representative to the 19th round of boundary talks, was not excepted to focus specifically on listing Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief, Masood Azhar in the U.N. terror list, during the omnibus dialogue with his counterpart, China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi. “Azhar is not part of his brief,” the sources said.
“Ties carry special significance”
In his opening remarks at the talks, Mr. Yang stressed that China-India relations carry “special significance,” and he was looking forward to a comprehensive dialogue.
“The Chinese side stands ready to use this important occasion to have a broad ranging in depth and candid discussion with the Indian side on bilateral relations, [the] boundary question, regional and international issues and other issues of shared interest.” He added: “I am convinced that such discussions will be constructive.”
Doval for a more relaxed affair
Mr. Doval reciprocated by saying that he was looking forward to transitioning the dialogue, into a more relaxed affair, where qualities of the “mind” and “heart” combined. The National Security Adviser pointed out that 2015 was a special year, which triggered heightened interaction between the two countries, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China last May.
“2015 has been a very positive year as our Prime Minister visited China in May, and it started a process about which we feel very satisfied,” Mr. Doval observed. He added that “there has been an improvement in bilateral exchanges between the two countries in various fields”. He also conveyed the Prime Minister Modi’s greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
Border incidents dip
Wednesday’s talks were being held in the backdrop of a sharp decline in border incidents in recent months.
However, the sources cautioned that only incremental progress could be expected on the resolution of the boundary issue during the current meeting.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also noted in her briefing on Tuesday that the two sides at present “are at a crucial stage of negotiating a framework for the resolution of the boundary question.”
Advocating persistence, she pointed out that pursuit of a dialogue had allowed China to thoroughly settle “boundary issues through bilateral negotiations with 12 out of its 14 land neighbours and drawn up approximately 20,000km border line, accounting for some 90 per cent of its total land boundary.”
Clarification of LAC
Pending a final boundary settlement, clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is on the agenda of Mr. Doval’s talks at Beijing’s Diaoyutai state guest house. The sources said that in order to reinforce border stability, the Indian side has proposed that the two countries share information on the actual ground position of troops along the LAC in order to prevent inadvertent transgressions.
However, the Chinese side has so far not responded positively to the proposal, though it insists on greater elaboration of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in order to keep the 3488-kilometer Sino-Indian frontier calm.
Concerns over trade
In tune with the UPA-2 government’s decision to expand the framework of Special Representatives talks to include all issues of a strategic nature, Mr. Doval is likely to raise India’s concerns regarding the India-China trade.
India is specifically interested in China providing greater market access to items where New Delhi has a comparative advantage such as pharmaceuticals and Information Technology (IT) products.
PoK infra issue
Mr. Doval was also expected to air India’s security concerns regarding the improvement of infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is the expected fallout of the development of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Sources said that the Indo-Pak tussle over the status of PoK is discouraging China to invest in this part of the corridor-impeding progress of the 46 billion dollars project.
India is also concerned about China’s involvement in developing Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which is close to the energy sea lanes passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Besides, India is interested in a more detailed conversation with the Chinese on the quad dialogue on Afghanistan, which excludes India and Russia, but includes China, Pakistan, the United States and Afghanistan.