Actively exploring ‘early harvest’ of border dispute with India: China
China on Tuesday said it was, along with India, “actively exploring” the contents of an “early harvest”-based settlement of the bilateral boundary dispute.
The dispute over the 3,488 km-long border has for decades cast a shadow on ties, with dozens of rounds of protracted talks failing to reach a basic consensus.
Beijing’s statement comes a day after HT reported from New Delhi that India had linked China’s “early harvest” proposal for settling the Sikkim land boundary to the simultaneous demarcation of the middle sector in Uttarakhand as a stepping stone to the phased resolution of the dispute that sparked a war in 1962.
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The India-China border is divided into three sectors, namely western, middle and eastern, involving (from the Indian perspective) Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
In a written statement to HT, the Chinese foreign ministry said “early harvest” was an important part of resolving the border question, but didn’t share details about the Indian proposal.
“The early harvest of the border negotiations between China and India is an important measure to promote the settlement of the border issue, the maintenance of peace and stability in the border areas and the promotion of cooperation in the border areas,” the foreign ministry said in the statement.
“The two sides are actively exploring the specific contents of realising the early harvest,” it added.
The “early harvest” option suggested by China includes demarcating the Sino-India border along Sikkim, implementing a code of conduct for border troops and not restricting border trade only among frontier residents.
To Beijing, these measures will ensure better communication between border troops to control localised flare-ups and improve cooperation between residents on either side.
The recently held 22nd dialogue of the Special Representatives (SR) on the boundary issue between national security adviser Ajit Doval and state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi in New Delhi ended with both sides committed to maintaining peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Chinese statement on the talks said the two sides should “promote early harvest consultations”; the Indian one didn’t mention the proposals.
In fact, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang had mentioned the phrase at the end of the 21st dialogue under the mechanism in China in November 2018.
The Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on border affairs plans to start “early harvest consultations”, Geng had then indicated.
The Chinese statement at the end of the 22nd dialogue, earlier in December, said: “The two sides exchanged views on the early harvest of boundary negotiations, reached consensus on strengthening trust measures, and agreed to make regulations on safeguarding peace and tranquility in border areas, enhance communication and exchanges between the border troops of the two countries, as well as expand border trade and personnel exchanges”.
“Last year, the Chinese side had already elaborated on it (early harvest). I don’t think there are some new proposals in it. But it seems to me that the Indian-side is not so interested in it,” a leading Beijing-based India expert said on condition of anonymity.