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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Border talks: Mixed signals from China

August 11, 2009

Strategic expert B Raman on the recently concluded talks with China
August 10, 2009

The 13th round of the talks between the Special Representatives of
India and China on the long-pending border dispute was held at New
Delhi [ Images ] on August 7 and 8. India was represented by M K
Narayanan, the National Security Adviser, and China by Dai Bingguio,
the state councillor. It was reported that in addition to the border
dispute, which was the principal subject of the discussions, they
also discussed other matters of strategic importance.

According to the briefing given to the Indian media by Indian
officials, the discussions on other matters of strategic importance
resulted in the following agreements:

* To set up a hotline between the prime ministers of the two
countries as a confidence-building measure. India presently has a
hotline only with Russia [ Images ]. It has been reported that the
suggestion for a hotline between the prime ministers of India and
China originally came from President Hu Jintao when he had met Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] on the margins of the summit of
the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation at Yekaterinburg in Russia on June 15.
* To keep up the momentum in the expansion of the bilateral trade
which reached $52 billion last year.
* To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of
diplomatic relations between the two countries in a befitting manner next year.

The focus in the media briefings on the positive decisions in respect
of other matters of strategic importance and not on the border
dispute possibly indicated that the deadlock in finding a mutually
acceptable solution to the border dispute remained unbroken in the
talks. It is noticed that the government/party controlled Chinese
media gave more details of the talks than the Indian media.

It may be recalled that earlier this year the Global Times, an
English language daily of the People's Daily group, and a section of
Chinese academics had mounted a critical and sarcastic campaign
against India following media reports of reported Indian plans to
deploy two Mountain Divisions and an Air Force Squadron in Arunachal
Pradesh for its defence.

This media campaign against India -- unusual in its sarcasm and
ridicule of Indian aspirations of becoming a global power -- had a
strongly negative impact on large sections of Indian public opinion
and added to the existing prejudices against China. Possibly
realising this, an attempt was made by the People's Daily on the eve
of the border talks to project India in a positive light by the
publication of some articles, which gave the impression of being more
objective and appreciative of India. One of these articles, which was
widely noticed in India, was contributed by Zhang Yan, who assumed
charge as the Chinese Ambassador to India in March last year.

In a special interview to the Xinhua news agency on the eve of the
border talks, which was disseminated on August 4, he said: "China and
India should settle the existing border disputes properly, calling
into play the greatest possible political wisdom. Despite the twists
and turns in China-India ties and border disputes, the two countries
share the same historical responsibilities of developing economies,
improving people's lives and safeguarding world peace and
development, which requires them to properly handle existing problems
with the utmost political wisdom. The two countries are facing
valuable development opportunities. They should use the 60th
anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries next year to
cement bilateral links and contribute to Asia's and world peace and
development. The two largest Asian countries have witnessed rapid
growth in their relationship in recent years and forged a strategic
cooperative partnership. There were frequent visits between top
leaders and increasing parliamentary, youth and military exchanges.

"China is now India's top trading partner, while India has become
China's largest overseas project contracting market and an important
investment destination. Bilateral trade volume between the two hit
$51.7 billion in 2008, up 35 per cent over the same period of a year
ago. The two countries have also set a target of bilateral trade
volume of $60 billion by 2010. The two countries share the same
stance on major international and regional issues, and had maintained
close cooperation on hot topics such as climate change, food
security, Doha negotiations and the worldwide economic downturn. As
emerging powers, China and India have worked closely within the
frameworks of BRIC, the five developing nations and the Group of 20,
to safeguard the common interests of developing countries."

It is learnt that the Chinese visual media also projected a more
positive image of India. While thus projecting India and the
Sino-India relations in a positive light on the eve of the border
talks, the English language Chinese media, at the same time, sought
to convey a message that this positive portrayal did not presage any
change in China's stand on the border dispute, which remained and
which would remain as before. Under the title "Expert: China will not
compromise on Sino-Indian border issue", the Global Times reported as
follows on August 7, the day the latest round of border talks
started: "Border talks between China and India began today in New
Delhi, capital of India. This round of negotiations followed media
speculation, with Reuters saying the two countries are not likely to
reach a border treaty, while Hong Kong media claimed the negotiations
are making great progress. Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper, suggested
that the present time is not favorable for China to resolve boundary
issue in such a hurried way because the country is still rising
globally and if the dispute is not properly addressed, the result
will only be blamed by generations to come.

Chinese military expert Long Tao commented that the disputed region
of South Tibet [ Images ] is not the cause of the two countries'
conflict in the history, but rather was left over from 1914. That was
when the British colonialists arbitrarily made the "McMahon Line,"
which Long says is even more ridiculous than the unequal Treaty of
Nanjing. He also added that though the two parties want to focus on
developing bilateral ties, China won't sacrifice its sovereignty in
exchange for friendship. Therefore, India should not have any
illusions with regard to this issue."

The Xinhua news agency disseminated a report the same day quoting
Jiang Yu, a spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, as saying
as follows: "China is willing to make joint efforts with India in the
spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation to seek a fair,
reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the issue. China and
India have disputed territory along the Himalayan region in southwest
China's Tibet Autonomous Region as a result of the McMahon Line drawn
by the British colonial rulers in India in the early 20th century.
However, the Chinese government has never recognised the illegal
McMahon Line. "

The message, which was conveyed through the Chinese media in the days
before the border talks and on the first day of the border talks, was
thus very clear: China continued to attach importance to a further
improvement of its bilateral relations with India, but it will remain
firm on its claims to Indian territory in the Arunachal Pradesh sector.
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