India hopeful of speedy border settlement
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India hopeful of speedy border settlement

Yashwant Sinha told Hindustan Times that China seems to be willing to finally tackle the matter politically, reports Vir Sanghvi.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2003 23:49 IST

The government of India is hopeful of speeding up a settlement of the longstanding India-China border issue, now that the process has moved to the political level. In an exclusive interview to the Hindustan Times, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said the proposal to appoint a Special Representative, at a political level, had first been suggested by AB Vajpayee when he visited China as Foreign Minister in 1979.

At that time, the Chinese had not accepted the proposal. Their acceptance of the same proposal in 2003 suggests a willingness to finally tackle the matter politically. So far, the process has been confined to two official bodies who have engaged in clarifying the contours of the Line of Actual Control rather than resolving the dispute.

Soon after the Prime Minister returns to Delhi on Friday night, the government will work out a mandate for India's Special Representative Brajesh Mishra, Sinha said. If any important matter comes in during Mishra's talks with the Chinese, then the government will not hesitate to involve the opposition.

Sinha said that he regarded the signing of the agreement on cross-border trade as a major step because it marked the Chinese acknowledgement of Nathu La as being on the Indian border.

He said that India had been assured by China that a number of concrete steps regarding the status of Sikkim would follow from this acknowledgement. "Changes that will give India greater comfort will be made on their official website and in their almanacs", he said. "The formal recognition of Sikkim's status as a part of India is only a matter of time."

Sinha conceded that the Indian and Chinese sides had engaged in prolonged eleventh hour negotiations before the two key documents —- on border trade and the joint declaration — were signed but argued that the delays in the signing could be attributed only to differences over the wording of sections dealing with Sikkim, Tibet and the border dispute.

"In 1991", he said, "both sides stated their positions on Tibet in the final document and left it at that. This time we were able to argue on a joint formulation even though India has only restated what has been our consistent position on Tibet."

Responding to criticism that India had given too much on Tibet without getting enough in return, he said "I am not able to understand what we've given. We've said nothing new. On the other hand, there has been a definite movement forward in the Chinese position on Sikkim."

Sinha defended the government's decision to sideline the issue of China's relations with Pakistan during these talks. "Whatever they've done, in terms of military co-operation with Pakistan, in the past is a done deal," he said. "We feel that if we manage to come closer together then the proclivity of China to do something that is not in India's interests will decline."

Sinha said the Chinese Foreign Minister would visit India by the end of the year and said that the Chinese Prime Minister and President would visit India "within twelve months."

First Published: Jun 26, 2003 23:49 IST