China continues to play down border spat with India

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: May 07, 2013 23:50 IST

India and China have the capability of resolving border disputes keeping in mind broader bilateral relations, the state media reported on Tuesday, carrying on the Chinese government’s efforts to play down the incident.

The Chinese media had mostly kept their hands off the China-India border spat till earlier this week. But the apparent resolution of the incident has led to a study of the events of the past three weeks in the remote barren areas of Ladakh; the place where the incident took place was named as the Tiannan River Valley Area by the Chinese.

Interestingly, the Communist Party of China (CPC) primary mouthpieces like the People’s Daily are yet to come out with an opinion piece on the issue.
As the state media reported on the easing of the tension on Tuesday, Chinese diplomats privately maintained that People’s Liberation of Army (PLA) troops did not provoke the standoff.

Strategic experts quoted by the state media said both New Delhi and Beijing were rational in handling such disputes.
Han Hua, director of the Center for Arms Control and Disarmament at the School of International Studies affiliated with Peking University, told the Global Times newspaper that the withdrawal came as no surprise.

According to Han, bilateral ties were tense from 2006 to 2009 due to rows over the eastern section of the China-Indian border, but have warmed up since 2010, partly because of rising disputes with China's neighbors to the east as a result of the US pivot to Asia.

“Last fall's leadership transition in China was another turning point. The new leadership adjusted its policies and now seeks a stabilised relationship with India,” Han said, adding: “The grand strategy of China is to avoid troubled relations with its neighbors. Given current rows with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, there is no reason to start another row.”

Pei Yuanying, a former Chinese ambassador to India, told the China Daily newspaper recently that resolving the Sino-Indian border dispute, an issue left over by history, needs time and patience.

"Border standoffs are somewhat inevitable in the future, but they are only petty issues against the whole backdrop of thriving Sino-Indian relations," Pei said, adding that the point is acknowledged by both sides.

But some analysts are only cautiously optimistic.

“A rerun of the 1962 conflict is unlikely; neither country is mobilizing for warand the presence of a few dozen PLA troops does not harbor the potential for rapid escalation like the high-seas gamesmanship in the South and East China Seas. Nevertheless, if the two sides cannot reach a lasting political solution soon, competition could overwhelm the positive tenor that has defined Sino-Indian relations in recent years. There are few worse things that could happen to Asia than its two biggest giants backsliding into rivalry,” the US-based Foreign Policy magazine said.

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