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'Border disputes may end'

Atal's visit has yielded "better than expected" results for the settlement of boundary dispute, feel experts.

india Updated: Jul 02, 2003 17:06 IST

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's milestone visit to China has yielded "better than expected" results for the final settlement of the boundary dispute that has impaired the smooth development of Sino-Indian relations, top Chinese analysts said on Sunday.

"The very important visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee has yielded better than expected results that would go a long way to enhance mutual trust and understanding between China and India and lead to the final settlement of some of the historical problems between our two countries," former Chinese ambassador to India Cheng Ruisheng said.

Evaluating Vajpayee's six-day official visit to China, the first by an Indian prime minister in a decade, Cheng, also Vice President of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, said the appointment of special representatives by both New Delhi and Beijing to hasten the process of boundary settlement was a major achievement reached during the visit.

"The appointment of a special representative to explore from the political perspective the framework of a boundary settlement is a very important and unexpected move by the two governments," Cheng said.

India nominated National Security Advisor and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra, as its special representative while China named its Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo to the post.

Vajpayee, who suggested the appointment of a special representative to his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao during their "restrictive talks" held prior to the delegation-level talks in the Great Hall of the People here, received a reply within 24 hours, which is really quick considering Beijing's slow responses in the past, official sources said.

Cheng noted that in the first-ever joint declaration between India and China, Vajpayee and Wen reiterated their readiness to seek a "fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution" to the boundary issue through consultations on "an equal footing".

Commenting on the forward movement on the boundary issue, the deputy director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Professor Sun Shihai, said the boundary negotiations could not make progress in the past 20 years due to lack of political will and "misperceptions" on both sides.

"Now we have a chance to make fresh progress on the boundary issue with the appointment of a special representative who enjoys political backing from the leadership of the two sides," Sun said.

He noted that Beijing and New Delhi have reached agreement on the principles under which the vexed boundary question should be resolved while maintaining peace and tranquillity along the border areas.

Vajpayee, in a statement prior to his departure from Shanghai, the gleaming commercial capital of China, also noted that among the important steps discussed during his visit was the settlement of the vexed India-China boundary question.

"Both countries have been discussing principles which are to be followed for an eventual boundary settlement," Vajpayee said.

The two leaders agreed that the work of clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) should continue smoothly.

"We also agreed that peace and tranquillity along the LAC should continue to be maintained," Vajpayee said.

India says China occupies approximately 38,000 square kilometres of territory in Kashmir. In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan 'boundary agreement' of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to China.

At the same time, China lays claim to 90,000 sq km of land in Arunachal Pradesh.

Senior officials from the two sides have held 14 sessions of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on the border issue since late 1980s in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the border dispute. Apart from the JWG, the two sides have also met at the Expert Group (EG) level 13 times.

However, little progress has been achieved with both sides only managing to exchange sample maps of the middle sector, the least contentious among the eastern, middle and western sectors.

Now that China has settled its boundary dispute with almost all of its neighbours, including Russia and Vietnam, official sources hope that a fair and mutually acceptable formulation could be worked out on the border issue so as to ensure enduring and strong partnership between India and China.