India and China have decided to set up a working group that will prepare a framework to resolve their decades-old border dispute, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said after meeting his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Thursday.
"The 11th round of talks between the Special Representatives (tasked to tackle the border issue)…was successful. They have decided to set
up a working group to prepare a framework arrangement. Let us wait for the recommendations of the working group."
The working group was agreed upon by Special Representatives MK Narayanan and Dai Bingguo in line with an April 2005 accord on
political parameters and guiding principles to resolve the border issue between the two countries.
Mukherjee's announcement of a step forward in resolving the border issue came on a day when Congress president Sonia Gandhi landed in
Beijing on a goodwill visit.
"Both sides have their perceptions (on the border dispute). We would like to narrow this gap," he stated.
The minister revealed that India and China would shortly hold a counter-terrorism exercise involving their armed forces. "That should
be extended to naval exercises. I suggested to the Chinese minister that we should have a calendar of events for the year 2008 (on the
Pointing out that the two countries would hold a defence dialogue in November, Mukherjee made it clear that India was interested in expanding defence and security cooperation with China.
At the meeting, Yang Jiechi said pretty much the same thing: that China wanted to expand its partnership in strategic areas with India.
The Chinese minister also said that Beijing would stick to the path of peaceful development.
In his opening remarks, Pranab Mukherjee said that India was looking with interest at the deliberations of the just-concluded 17th congress
of the Chinese Communist Party.
Both ministers were all smiles after they came out of their bilateral meeting. And, then Yang and Mukherjee drove together in the same car
to the airport, with the Chinese minister seeing off his Indian counterpart right to the waiting aircraft.