India and China have decided to reboot efforts to resolve their border row so that they can focus on Asia’s rise in a post-western world.
In a media briefing on the first informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale signaled that the two countries were now set for a simultaneous process, which would include additional tension easing measures at the borders, as well as concrete steps to resolve the differences on the frontiers.
“While one of the areas of focus was to maintain peace and tranquility [on the borders] I think the work of the special representatives on finding a solution to the boundary question will continue unabated.”
Analysts say that the concrete progress in resolving border differences would be a game-changer for boosting ties between the two neighbours, which are facing headwinds of protectionism from the Trump administration in the United States.
Mr. Gokhale said that the two Special Representatives (SR) who are steering the boundary talks would meet “in due course” to take up the boundary issue.
The Foreign Secretary highlighted that talks on the resolution of border differences would be based on principles and parameters anchored in a 2005 agreement between the two countries.
Observers say that at some point, boundary talks would have to factor in the Tibet issue, including the possible return of the Dalai Lama from his present abode in Dharamsala to Lhasa, and other related concerns. “A final settlement based around the existing status quo on the frontiers would need to also resolve the Tibet question for all time…perhaps the SRs could consider formulating the principles on such a grand bargain, where China’s sovereignty over Tibet is also part of the terms of the package deal,” says Zorawar Daulet Singh, Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, in a conversation with The Hindu.
The Chinese Vice Foreign minister Kong Xuanyou acknowledged on Saturday during a media interaction that India had not changed its official position that Tibet is part of China.
He also said that China will not press India to endorse the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)-a giant connectivity enterprise, which India opposes as one its projects passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir
Efforts to prevent and defuse tensions at the border through Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) have come under fresh scrutiny after last year’s Doklam military standoff.
At the Wuhan summit, the two countries have re-flagged the “mutual and equal security” clause of the 1993 Peace and Tranquility accord, signed when the late PV Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. Military sources told The Hindu that the arrangement under this principle, where troop deployments by either side were to take place in accordance with differential terrain and other factors, has been regularly flouted in the past.
The two leaders acknowledged that India and China “have wider and overlapping regional and global interests,” meriting sharper “strategic communication”.
A Diplomatic source told The Hindu that “considerable pressure was building up as India and China’s interests began to intersect in South Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific. We needed new dedicated
communication mechanisms to iron out these problems”.
Asked about China’s growing influence in South Asia where India has been a dominant player, Mr. Gokhale said: “The two leaders were very clear that we have converging interests. We have our respective
visions of domestic and foreign policy that we will work together and use strategic communication to ensure that we are able to improve the situation regionally, internationally.” In the past, India has been wary of China’s growing interest in the Indian Ocean under its Maritime Silk Road project. India has sought to counter China’s rising naval influence in its periphery through its participation in the India, U.S., Japan and Australia quad cluster in the Indo-Pacific.
During the course of the summit, President Xi made it plain that he visualised India as a partner in achieving a much loftier aspiration — of seeking the birth of a collaborative non-western world order. He was quoted in a front-paged article in the People’s Daily — the authentic voice of the Communist party of China (CPC) --- that India and China should be partners in rebooting the “Eastern civilization” that promoted “the harmonious coexistence of different civilizations”.
The press statement nailed growing ties between the two countries as the pathway to the emergence of an “Asian Century”.
Analysts say that aspiration for Asia’s rise implied a rejection of a unipolar world. This was amplified in the statement which asserted that India and China were “major powers,” which exercised “strategic and decisional autonomy,” which impacted the region and the globe.