India, China working on CBMs

NEW DELHI May 22. India and China are working on a set of confidence-building measures (not related to the Line of Actual Control) that could be agreed upon during the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to Beijing.

Mr. Vajpayee's visit has still not been officially announced, but it could be in the third week of June.

Official sources said the CBMs were expected to provide substance to the Prime Minister's visit. The two countries are also expected to sign three or four agreements, including one on visas.

However, the sources are sceptical about the exchange of maps on the crucial western sector of the Line of Actual Control before the Prime Minister's visit.

``If the Chinese want to send a positive signal, they should not block the exchange of maps in this sector,'' the sources said expressing frustration with the approach adopted by Beijing on the issue.

After the last meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) in November 2002 in New Delhi failed to resolve the issue of exchange of maps, an expert group meeting was to have been held in January 2003. The meeting has still not taken place. Obviously, the two sides have hit a difficult obstacle in the path of clarifying their positions in the western sector.

The sources also said that yet another positive indicator would be if the Chinese side took steps towards recognising Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. ``The Chinese lay claim to the entire State of Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal is a part of India. The Chinese must recognise this reality,'' they maintained.

In their official position, as posted on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Beijing holds: ``In February 1987, India established the so-called Arunachal Pradesh in its illegally occupied Chinese territories south of the McMahon Line. The Chinese side made solemn statements on many occasions that China would never recognise the illegal McMahon Line and the so-called Arunachal Pradesh, and demanded that India withdraw all its military personnel who have crossed the border line and set up guard posts in Chinese territories.''

Clearly, the two sides remain far apart on crucial questions relating to their boundary dispute like Arunachal Pradesh even as they have made strenuous efforts to ensure that this dispute does not come in the way of improved bilateral relations.

In his book, Protracted Contest, John W. Garver writes: ``If the Sino-Indian territorial dispute is to be solved peacefully through negotiations, the solution must come from the very highest level.

``The top leaders of China and India will have to decide that, simply in order to reduce the possibility of war between the two countries, they must reach an agreement and then impose it on their respective countries.

``When they agree to do this and proceed to draw a line on a map, they will probably need to keep their specialists on the border issue out of the room — their soldiers and strategists too.''

Fifteen years after India and China began discussing their boundary dispute, tranquillity and the absence of incident are to be welcomed. But the two countries appear to be far away from reconciling their differences and in approaching a final settlement.

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