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'India, China making progress in border talks'

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee announces setting up of a Working Group to help in resolving the vexed boundary issue.

world Updated: Oct 25, 2007 12:02 IST

India and China have established a Working Group to prepare a framework for the settlement of their vexed boundary issue, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced at Harbin in China on Thursday.

The 11th round of talks between the Special Representatives of India and China was successful and they have decided to set up a Working Group to prepare a framework for the resolution of the boundary issue, Mukherjee told reporters after holding a 50-minute meeting here with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

"Let us wait for the recommendations of the Working Group," Mukherjee, who is in this northeast Chinese city to attend the third standalone trilateral meeting of Foreign Ministers of India, China and Russia, said.

The apparent progress on the boundary issue comes ahead of the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as that by Congress President Sonia Gandhi from Thursday. The 11th round of the Special Representative-level talks on India-China boundary question was held in Beijing from September 24-26.

The Special Representatives of the two countries, MK Narayanan, National Security Adviser, and Dai Bingguo, Vice Foreign Minister, held "useful and positive" discussions on the framework for the settlement of the India-China boundary question, the Indian side had said in a positive evaluation of the talks last month.

The unresolved Sino-Indian boundary issue has hampered the normal development of bilateral ties, with frequent reports of incursions, hurting the overall relations.

Director General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, General VK Joshi had said on Tuesday that over 140 incursions have been reported along the Indo-Chinese border stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh over the past year.

Unable to find a negotiated settlement through diplomatic channels, India and China appointed Special Representatives in June 2003 to address the border issue from a political perspective of the overall bilateral relations.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq kms of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

Meanwhile, the meeting between Mukherjee and Yang also touched upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's planned visit to China, External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna said. The meeting reviewed the preparations for the Prime Minister's visit, he said.

Mukherjee and Yang also looked at the possibilities of increasing bilateral trade which has been galloping at over 30 per cent in recent times. However, China has enjoyed a growing trade surplus with India running into over four billion US dollars in the first six months of this year, causing concern in New Delhi.

The two Foreign Ministers also discussed regional issues, including the latest situation in Myanmar. On Wednesday, after the trilateral meeting of Foreign Ministers, Mukherjee had stated that India was against imposing new sanctions on Myanmar but urged Yangon to involve all the stakeholders in advancing political reforms and national reconciliation, a move jointly supported by China and Russia.

"We believe that the initiative taken by the UN Secretary General (Ban Ki-Moon) to open dialogue amongst the various stake-holders in Myanmar should be encouraged," he had told reporters.

Mukherjee said India has also suggested that the process of political reform and national reconciliation should be expedited on a broad base and equally among all stakeholders.

"We believe that Myanmar authorities should be encouraged to engage in the process of dialogue with the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General (Ibrahim Gambari), the initiative which he has taken should be encouraged to take it to the logical conclusion and there should not be any sanctions at this stage," the minister emphasised again on Thursday, when asked about the Myanmar issue.

Mukherjee, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and other senior officials left for New Delhi on a special flight. Mukherjee on Wednesday had a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, discussing Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Moscow in the second week of November and other bilateral and regional issues of common concern.

First Published: Oct 25, 2007 11:04 IST