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Beijing talks to focus on Tibet

December 20, 2007

Seema Guha
Daily News & Analysis
Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Foreign secy will also discuss the border issue

NEW DELHI: When foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon visits Beijing
later this week for the third round of India-China strategic dialogue,
the focus will be on the Tibet issue and border talks.

Menon will also use the opportunity to give finishing touches to Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh’s official visit to Beijing scheduled for
mid-January 2008.

Though India’s position on Tibet is well known, it is likely to be
brought up by the Chinese during Menon’s meeting with China’s deputy
foreign minister Wu Dawei.

Ever since the US Congress decided to honour the Dalai Lama with the
Congressional Gold medal, the highest civilian award conferred by US
lawmakers, the Chinese have been wary.

The Dalai Lama’s well-publicised visit to Capitol Hill was followed by
his trip to Canada and a meeting with Germany Chancellor Merkel. Germany
paid for this because when Merkel visited China she was given a cool
reception.

In sharp contrast, the Chinese inked business deals worth 20 billion
euro with French president Nicholas Sarkozy. France had not entertained
Tibet’s spiritual leader. The Chinese wanted to drive home this message
to the Germans.

Soon after the Tibetan spiritual leader returned to India, ministers in
the UPA government were asked not to attend a felicitation function
organised by the Gandhi peace foundation. This move was noted and
appreciated by Beijing.

New Delhi has always regarded Tibet as an autonomous region of China.
But now that the Dalai Lama is getting on in years and is publicly
hinting at choosing a successor, the Chinese would like a reiteration of
New Delhi’s position on Tibet, which will be reflected in the joint
declaration at the end of the PM’s visit.

India is likely to ask for a similar response from China on Sikkim,
though Beijing had by the mid 1990’s come to acknowledge it as a part of
India.

Despite frequent reports in the Indian media about the Chinese army’s
incursions into Indian territory, South Block has refrained from making
harsh public statements against Beijing. This is because both sides
realise the boundary demarcation is yet to be finalised and the border
remains “disputed”.

The border issue, which has now reached the sensitive land exchange
stage, is also likely to come up in the talks between Menon and Wu
Dawei. There has been little progress in the negotiations in the last
few rounds. But now the two sides are looking to forge ahead.

When national security advisor MK Narayanan visited Beijing ahead of
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s trip in October, he found the Chinese
much more accommodating and he had privately hoped the tricky boundary
problem would move towards a final resolution.
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