India and China are all set to hold a crucial round of boundary talks on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit at Ufa in Russia next week. Beijing is learnt to have expressed its interest in fast-tracking resolution of the festering boundary dispute, indicating that it is even open to a meeting of the special representatives every three months.
The Indian special representative is national security adviser Ajit Doval while the Chinese side is represented by state councillor Yang Jiechi. The BRICS summit is scheduled for July 9 and 10.
Top government sources said that the Chinese offer to push for a speedy resolution of the border issue came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told President Xi Jinping during his China visit in May that the boundary talks were going nowhere even after 18 rounds of talks, even questioning the point of continuing the exercise.
Making it clear that India will not compromise on disturbing settled populations in the eastern sector of the Indo-China border, New Delhi hinted that it even open to winding down the special representatives talks.
For New Delhi, peace and tranquility along the 4,088-km Line of Actual Control is distinct from a resolution of the long pending India-China boundary dispute.
Although the special representatives dialogue was set up in June 2003 to specifically address the boundary question on the basis of mutually decided political parameters, its agenda was broadened during the UPA 2 regime to virtually the overall bilateral relationship.
It is an open secret on Raisina Hill that the boundary talks have really not moved to addressing the fundamental question of border demarcation between two Asian giants.
While India sees forward movement on boundary resolution with China as the key to a close bilateral relationship, Beijing wants bilateral trade and commerce to increase with India without any land concessions to a country they see as having lost territory in the 1962 conflict.
The Chinese position on the boundary issue with India has not changed as it wants Indian concessions on both the western and eastern sector with an eye towards Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The positive side, however, is that there have been fewer military face-offs along the LAC this year compared to the last, with India making efforts to develop infrastructure to counter and contain possible Chinese incursions.
In this context, the special representatives talks in Ufa could be a milestone as both the interlocutors are expected to lay out a timeline on boundary resolution rather than meandering on ensuring peace and tranquility on the LAC.
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