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India, China start new process to resolve border dispute

Brajesh Mishra will be India's representative at a new process to settle border dispute with China, reports Vir Sanghvi.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2003 03:02 IST

National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra will be India’s special representative at a new process to settle the long-standing India-China border dispute. The Chinese government will be represented by Dai Bingguo, Executive Vice-Foreign Minister.

India and China on Tuesday finally made public the texts of the two key documents signed on Monday. Though both documents were far-reaching in their significance, the text had been withheld till the conclusion of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The documents contain two significant elements. The first, recorded in the joint declaration, concerns the appointment of two special representatives to speed up settlement of the boundary dispute. The joint declaration talks of “the clarification of the Line of Actual Control” and suggests that the two sides recognise the need to find new mechanisms to resolve this dispute.

The second significant element — hinted at in leaks to the media on Monday — concerns a possible trade-off on Indian and Chinese positions on Sikkim and Tibet.

The Chinese news agency has claimed that the declaration's phrase “The Indian side recognises that the Tibetan Autonomous Region is part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China” marks a shift in the Indian position.

Indian officials argue that this has been the Indian position for 50 years and that by including a reference to the ‘Tibetan Autonomous Region’ and the ‘People’s Republic of China’, India has actually narrowed the scope of previous statements. These phrases exclude any notion of a Greater Tibet (the Tibet Autonomous Region was created in 1965) or of a historical claim (the PRC came into existence in 1949).

In contrast, the Chinese media have been completely silent about the border trade agreement. The significance of this agreement lies in China’s recognition of “Changgu of Sikkim state” and of the Nathu La Pass as inevitable points for border trade. Till now, China has refused to recognise Sikkim’s accession to India. But by naming two contested areas as Indian points on the border, the Chinese have suggested that they recognise Sikkim’s border as being India’s border.

On Tuesday evening, the Indian side was exulting over these developments and arguing that by merely restating a previously expressed position on Tibet, India had achieved real progress on the Sikkim issue.

Vajpayee visits the historical city of Luoyang on Wednesday before proceeding to Shanghai. The political part of his trip is now over.

Forward, backward

• Economic ties India and China to set up joint group of economists to boost economic cooperation to “greater heights”

• Martial arts Both countries oppose arms in outer space, want deepening of defence relationship

• China says Sikkim issue cannot be resolved overnight; history has to be respected

First Published: Jun 26, 2003 00:00 IST