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The great 60-year wall

Ahead of Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna’s visit, Beijing dropped a hint that the two largest Asian nations still don’t trust each other after 60 years of diplomatic ties.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2010 01:48 IST
Reshma Patil

Ahead of Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna’s visit, Beijing dropped a hint that the two largest Asian nations still don’t trust each other after 60 years of diplomatic ties.

A latest commentary in the government-run national magazine, the Beijing Review, bluntly said that ‘it remains doubtful at best that China and India could revisit the honeymoon period they once enjoyed decades ago'.

The writer, from an institute affiliated to China’s top official think-tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, questioned whether economic ties can improve political relations and said trust is a ‘lamentably rare commodity’ between the neighbours.

Starting Monday, the Indian delegation will spend four days in Beijing marking new warmth in relations and celebrating the 60th anniversary of ties with a play on the life of Emperor Asoka at the Forbidden City hall. On Thursday, President Hu Jintao dispatched a message to New Delhi, promising to develop a long-term and stable partnership with India.

Behind the scenes of diplomacy, Chinese analysts expect Beijing to speak frankly messages on the state of relations and the uncertainties ahead.

A professor tracking India-China relations told the Hindustan Times that the ‘most important item’ when both sides meet must be ‘finding some way’ to increase border stability.

“It’s most important to reduce strategic suspicions, dramatically reduce military tension and take stronger efforts to stabilise the border,’’ Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at the elite Renmin University in Beijing, told HT. “This is a huge task.’’

Five months ago, the foreign ministry had warned India not to ‘stir up trouble’ after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh.

Ties had frayed after reports of rising border tension and aggressive anti-India rhetoric in the Chinese media last year.

The Beijing Review also discusses India’s ‘chilly attitude to China’ at recent SAARC summits and wariness at growing Sino-Pakistan relations. It said the Chinese government remains ‘dissatisfied’ with New Delhi’s explanation of the Dalai Lama’s residence in India as a historical problem.

For the record, both sides will keep the focus on cooperation in trade, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and anti-terrorism. “ Given the symbolic circumstances of the 60th anniversary, I don’t think anything substantial or negative will appear on the table,’’ says Han Hua, associate professor at the Peking University School of International Studies.