India, China to discuss framework for border settlement Friday


New Delhi: Against the backdrop of Beijing’s renewed claims to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, special representatives of India and China will hold two-day talks here beginning Friday to evolve a framework for final settlement of their decades-old boundary dispute.

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Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo will hold in-camera talks with National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, almost a year after they last met in Beijing in September 2008.

Besides Dai, the Chinese delegation will include vice foreign minister Wu Dawei and officials of the department of boundary and ocean affairs.

The Indian delegation, headed by Narayanan, will comprise Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, a former ambassador to Beijing and officials of the external affairs ministry and the prime minister’s office.

Ahead of the meeting, official sources here said the two sides were trying to expeditiously resolve the “complex” issue and are hoping for progress in the second phase of the three-stage process they agreed to six years ago. The discussions will also include “regional and other issues of mutual interest”.

The 13th rounds of talks will take place against the backdrop of China’s renewed assertions over Arunachal Pradesh, India’s northeastern state that is claimed in entirety by both countries.

In March this year, China tried to block a development loan for India at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank on grounds that part of it was meant for Arunachal Pradesh, causing much disquiet in New Delhi.

Over the last year, Beijing has protested the visits by Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil, to Arunachal Pradesh to reassert its territorial claim over the state.

This was quickly rejected by New Delhi making it clear that Arunachal Pradesh was “an integral part of India”.

The two special representatives are likely to focus on bridging the gap on the interpretation of political parameters and guiding principles finalised during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in 2005.

The talks are aimed at arriving at a framework agreement for resolving the border question.

India and China fought a bitter war in 1962 and are now rapidly expanding their economic ties. They had adopted the special representatives route in 2003 to resolve the border issue from a political perspective after diplomatic negotiations failed to yield results.

India accuses China of illegally occupying 43,180 sq km of territory in Jammu and Kashmir, including 5,180 sq km Pakistan has illegally ceded to Beijing in 1963.

Beijing accuses New Delhi of occupying some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, most of it in Arunachal Pradesh.

In making repeated claims over Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing is seen here to be aiming at a maximalist position with an eye on the monastery town of Tawang that it claims on the ground that the sixth Dalai Lama was born there.

The Tibetans, including their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, have, however, never asked the monastery town to be returned to them.

New Delhi contends that the Chinese claim on Tawang goes against the grain of political parameters and guiding principles, which include not upsetting populated areas in a final settlement.