China on Tuesday emphasised the importance of dialogue to resolve the long-standing border dispute with India but gave enough indications that it is not up for mapping or demarcating the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Beijing’s statement came a day before the two sides resume talks on the border issue in the Chinese capital after a gap of a year.
Visiting defence minister Manohar Parrikar raised the issue of demarcating the LAC during meetings in Beijing on Monday, saying it could go a long way in reducing tension along the border and cutting down transgressions by border patrols.
On Tuesday, China came as close to a public response to Parrikar’s remarks as possible, and it came hours before National Security Adviser AK Doval was to arrive in Beijing for the 19th round of talks between “Special Representatives” on the boundary issue.
As it turns out, China is not ready to demarcate the border.
“With regard to LAC, we can have further discussions on that. As for any breakthrough during the 19th session (of talks), I am not sure but I believe both sides have the willingness to continue with friendly discussions on that,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.
Hua said after Parrikar’s meetings with Chinese officials and talks on the LAC, it was seen the “two militaries have the common aspiration of enhancing military-to-military exchanges so as to build up mutual trust and taking concrete actions to maintain peace and stability in border areas”.
Peace and stability? Yes. Demarcating the LAC for peace and stability according to India’s argument? No.
Hua did not explain why China wasn’t up for mapping the LAC.
The LAC currently divides India and China along 3,488 km of mountainous terrain but it has never been laid down on a map because the two countries have differing perceptions of the border.
Hua pointed to the need to carry forward the dialogue mechanism.
“We have been working to resolve territorial disputes through negotiations and consultations. We have completely settled territorial disputes with 12 out of 14 land neighbours (except for India and Bhutan). Both history and practice have proven that it is practical to resolve territorial disputes through negotiations and consultations. It is also an approach advocated by international law,” she said.
The talks, she said, demonstrate the two sides are willing to resolve the boundary question through bilateral consultations. Pending a final settlement acceptable to both countries, they will make joint efforts to maintain peace along the frontier.
Hua added the bilateral relationship was in “sound momentum” and there have been frequent interactions, exchanges and visits. “It reflects that both sides are willing to enhance strategic mutual trust, expand practical cooperation in different fields through high-level exchanges,” she said.