India and China continue to disagree over Kashmir, with no sign of the deadlock easing despite high-level talks even a month before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits India.
During a four and a half hour ‘frank’ dialogue in Beijing on Tuesday, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told her Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun that China needs to find a solution to the dispute over separate stapled Chinese visas for Indians from Kashmir.
“I did bring up stapled visas and mutual sensitivity to India’s core concerns. It’s an issue of sovereignty and the right of all Indian nationals to be treated on par,’’ Rao told Zhang during the fourth strategic dialogue. “The seriousness with which India views this was conveyed to the Chinese,’’ Rao said at a media briefing.
The talks were preparatory to finalising the outcome of Wen’s visit through potential agreements and a joint statement. While both sides say the bilateral relationship is sound, there has been no progress in resolving sensitive disputes.
India’s suspension of high-level defense exchanges over China’s Kashmir visa policy continues, and the Chinese say their Kashmir policy is unchanged. On Sunday, external affairs minister S M Krishna told his counterpart Yang Jiechi that India expects sensitivity on Kashmir the way India is sensitive to Chinese core concerns on Tibet and Taiwan.
The Indian side reiterated the stance on Tuesday and also raised concerns of Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Sino-Pak nuclear technology cooperation.
“We spoke of our concerns of terrorism and safe havens. I said very clearly we don’t regard their relations with Pakistan as a zero-sum game,’’ said Rao, adding that the Chinese understood the depth of Indian concerns. The Chinese discussed India's global role and ties in Asia, quizzing India on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the revival of its look east policy and ties with Japan.
While the Chinese view India as a South East Asian nation, the Indians maintained that India is also an ‘east Asian nation’ with substantive partnerships in the region. India also briefed Beijing on the US endorsement of a permanent seat for India at the UN Security Council.
The Chinese did not react beyond the standard official line of holding consultations. India again expressed concerns over damming the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra river in Tibet.
Latest Chinese reports say damming has begun for Tibet’s first large hydropower station, a 510 MW project, 325 km from Lhasa, to be built by 2014. Zhang said that the project is not designed to divert water or affect people on the river’s lower reaches in northeast India. The Chinese suggested bigger trade targets and expansion of border trade at Nathu-la with improved infrastructure.
India pointed out that targets could be achieved but trade must be more balanced with Indian hi-tech exports to China.