Sino-India border talks correct method: China before South China Sea ruling

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Jul 11, 2016 23:19 IST
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel manoeuvres to block a Philippine government supply ship with members of the media aboard at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea in March 2014. (Reuters)

A day ahead of an international court’s ruling on a Sino-Philippines dispute in the choppy waters of the South China Sea, China on Monday cited its protracted negotiations with India as the correct way to handle border rows and build sustainable relations.

Giving the example of the talks between China and India on their disputed 3488-km border, the foreign ministry told Hindustan Times that bilateral talks were part of the “correct methods” for settling disputes between two neighbours. The statement came in response to a question whether the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling will affect China’s border disputes with other countries.

Philippines has sued China over the ownership of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, saying Beijing had made false historical claims about its rights to the Spratly (Nansha) islands and Scarborough Shoals. 

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will issue a decision on Tuesday on the complaint by the Philippines. 

China is prepared to ignore the ruling, calling it a “farce”. 

In a written response to Hindustan Times, the foreign ministry gave the example of bilateral talks with India and said negotiations between countries involved in boundary disputes is the way forward. 

“Between China and India, the two countries have achieved major development through the mechanism of border special representatives (SRs) since 2003, (and) it has laid a solid foundation for the development of sustainable relations between China and India,” the ministry said. 

India and China created the SR mechanism during former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing in 2003 to explore a political solution to the boundary dispute. 

“China thinks this should be the correct methods of managing and handling disputes, and a real fulfilment of international laws,” the ministry said. 

“Through hard work, China has reached borderland agreements with 12 out of 14 neighbouring countries, (and) the borderline extends for more than 20,000 km. China has completed the borderline negotiation with Vietnam on Gulf of Tonkin,” it added. 

Under the SR mechanism, India and China have held 19 rounds of talks, the last one during National Security Advisor Ajit Doval‘s visit to Beijing in April. Officials from both sides say the mechanism has been useful in containing incidents along the border though a resolution to the festering dispute doesn’t seem close. 

China currently has land border disputes with India and Bhutan, with which it doesn’t have diplomatic relations. 

It is also locked in maritime disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. 

The foreign ministry described the tribunal appointed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration as illegal. 

“China has always held the point of view that relevant countries should directly, with a base in historical facts (and) international laws, settle disputes through negotiations. History and international practices have repeatedly proved, that to properly handle problems of territorial dispute between countries, it should be on the base of mutual respect, and through negotiations by relevant countries. Only this can achieve long-term and fundamental solutions,” the ministry said. 

“The arbitral tribunal is set up on the bases of a series of illegal activities and demands from the Philippines, recklessly expanded and exceeded its powers, the results are illegal and invalid, and don’t have any jurisdiction. China firmly opposes any proposition or action on the base of this so-called verdict,” it added. 

China said the arbitration will increase disputes and damage regional stability. 

“The territories of China and the Philippines are clear and explicit. The maps published in China, as well as numerous maps published officially from the Philippines in the past, could all objectively and clearly reflect the territorial areas of China and the Philippines,” the statement said. 

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