In China, uncertain expectations ahead of Wen visit

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:05 pm IST

Published - December 15, 2010 12:49 am IST - BEIJING:

Ahead of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's arrival in New Delhi on Wednesday on a three-day visit, expectations in China are measured, with analysts saying they do not expect either major breakthroughs or significant political outcomes as seen in past high-level exchanges between the two countries.

From P.V. Narasimha Rao's visit to Beijing in 1993 and the then President, Jiang Zemin's trip to New Delhi in 1996 to Atal Bihari Vajpayee's landmark 2003 China visit, recent visits by heads of state of both countries have tended to yield noteworthy outcomes.

In 1993, for instance, the two countries signed an agreement to maintain peace and tranquillity in border areas. The 1996 visit by Jiang Zemin was the first by a Chinese head of state, while in 2003, the two countries set up the special representatives mechanism to address the boundary dispute.

Even Mr. Wen's last visit to New Delhi, in 2005, produced a document that laid out political parameters and guiding principles to resolve the border row, and established a “strategic and cooperative partnership.”

‘Incremental progress'

“Looking at the official jargon from recent visits, there is a clear trajectory that shows incremental progress,” said Rong Ying, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

“But I am not sure that there will be a breakthrough on any issue. The relationship is complicated and there are issues on which the two countries do not see eye to eye,” he told The Hindu .

Border talks

The measured expectations reflect a sense that the positions of the two countries remain far apart on many of the core political issues they are grappling with, from the border talks and China's positions on Kashmir to United Nations Security Council reforms.

Mr. Rong suggested that the visit should focus on discussing a long-term framework to manage the evolution of the relationship. “There should be an approach that lays out a long-term plan for the relationship, say for the next 60 years,” he said. “There is a need for a long-term vision, not a focus on five or 10 years.”

“In the next 10 years, cooperation should be expanded to set up architectures for regional and global issues, which is missing at present,” Mr. Rong added.

“We cannot always have significant progress for each visit,” said Shen Dingli, a leading strategic analyst at Fudan University. “It takes longer time for a mature resolution to be achieved.” Until then, he said, it was important for both sides to maintain high-level visits.

“In the border area, the situation is stable as previous agreements are being observed, so there is less chance for military conflict,” he told The Hindu .

“Though we see more press reports on both sides on military moves, in fact these are hedging movements to prevent war. But the two sides need to further negotiate to reduce such hedging behaviour.”

Chinese analysts say the growing convergence of interests on global issues could help mitigate the sense of mistrust derived from persisting stalemates on core political issues.

Issues like climate change, or reforming international financial institutions to give developing countries a greater voice, could “help improve overall relations,” Mr. Shen said.

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