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'China sometimes crosses border'

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee says Chinese incursions into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control are not unusual, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2008 03:48 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said Chinese incursions into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control are not unusual and do occur “sometimes”. This revelation came on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China seeking a resolution of the boundary dispute.

Despite the government’s efforts to play down the incidents, saying there is no reason to press any “panic button”, Mukherjee’s comments indicate that the incursions are becoming difficult to ignore.

Mukherjee admitted that infrastructure development on the Chinese side of the border is “much superior to that on our side”.

Defence personnel have been concerned that Chinese troop deployment to the Indian border could take a few days instead of the weeks it took earlier. India has only recently begun to beef up its border infrastructure and construct roads leading up to the border, senior officials said.

"There is nothing to be worried of at this point of time and the mechanisms which we have are doing well," Mukherjee told a TV channel. "Sometimes incursions take place. We immediately take it up. Mechanisms have been established through which we address these type of problems," Mukherjee said. Asked whether the frequency or the number of incursions have increased, he said, "It is not unusual (but) it has not increased suddenly."

While the Prime Minister will aim to improve ties during his visit from Sunday, bilateral relations between the Asian giants are yet to reach a level of comfort, analysts said, with India's basic underlying concerns yet to be addressed by China.

While India, a rising economic power, seeks strategic partnership with countries across the globe, including China, its relationship with its largest neighbour cannot acquire a strategic dimension as long as China remains insincere in addressing New Delhi 's decade-long concerns, an analyst said. Despite engagements at various levels, New Delhi remains wary of Chinese designs through South Asia, in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. There is considerable reluctance among officials and analysts to speak critically of the relationship on record.

Prior to Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India in November 2006, Beijing ratcheted up its claim on Arunachal Pradesh and has remained intransigent on that claim, even denying visas to Indians from that state. It also continues to illegally occupy around 38,000 square kms in 'Aksai Chin.' Interestingly, the Prime Minister plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh soon after his return from China, on January 30.

More recently, statements from Beijing indicate a toughening of stance on the 'political parameters' to the border agreement of 2005. According to informed sources, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi conveyed to Mukherjee in Hamburg, on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meet (ASEM), that the "mere presence" of populated areas would not affect Chinese claims on the boundary. But Article 7 in the bilateral agreement on "political parameters" between

India and China, reached during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2005, stated: "In reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas." This was included after the Indian Prime Minister's statement that populated areas would not be disturbed in arriving at a solution to the border dispute.

Singh, on the eve of his departure, said India and China should pursue an early settlement of the boundary issue as a ''strategic objective'' while not allowing such differences to affect the ''positive development'' of the bilateral ties. ''An early settlement of the boundary question will advance the basic interests of the two countries and should, therefore, be pursued as a strategic objective,'' Singh said, as he prepared to meet President Hu and Premier Wen during his three-day visit.