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AUGUST 2013 ISSUE

Guest Column - Force Magazine
Great Wall of Discontent
Indo-China relationship remains mired in suspicion, mistrust and public nervousness
 
Kanwal SibalBy Kanwal Sibal
Our relationship with China in the last decade shows features of tensions, mistrust and lack of a solution to some underlying problems coupled with efforts to build confidence, engagement and progress in some areas. In other words, the quality of the relationship has remained largely unchanged. Ties today would be probably a shade worse than they were a decade ago.

On the critical border issue there has been no significant progress towards a real breakthrough despite 16 rounds of talks. At the beginning of the decade the mechanism of the Special Representatives (SRs) was established to resolve the border issue in the perspective of a political commitment to normalise relations rather than historical claims and legal arguments. While it is true that border issues are complex to resolve and quick solutions are not possible, yet several rounds of discussions over an extended period of time, preceded, in turn, by years of talks in a different format led by the foreign office of the two sides, should have produced tangible results. The two sides have agreed in 2005 to the broad principles and parameters that will govern the search for a solution but critical gaps exist in the interpretation of these principles by the two sides and closing them would be a most arduous task.

Premier Li Keqiang paying homage at Gandhi Samadhi What makes matters worse are the stepped up Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh since the last seven years or so. The then Chinese ambassador to India had asserted China’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh on the eve of former president Hu Jintao’s visit to India in 2006, a claim reiterated by a serving Chinese officer during the recent visit of defence minister A.K.Antony to China. China has begun calling Arunachal Pradesh South Tibet as a sign of hardening of positions. They have objected to the visits of our political leadership to Arunachal Pradesh, besides opposing development projects in the state financed by international institutions. They have enlarged the scope of the territorial dispute between the two countries by reducing the length of the border between them, which means attempting to delineate its contours unilaterally.

By issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris and denying a normal visa to the serving Indian general commanding our forces in Kashmir for attending an officially agreed defence dialogue, they have called into question India’s sovereignty over J&K, more so as the Kashmiris on the other side of the Line of Control (LC) have not been subject to the practice of stapled visas. Although they have ceased issuing such visas, the political point has already been registered.
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