On October 23, India's New Delhi welcomed in the first round of talks between "special representatives" on the Sino-Indian boundary issue. Indian media generally held that the talks would lay down a framework and principles for the two countries to promote solution of the boundary question left over from history. An article published on the front page of the "Indian Bulletin" on October 22 claimed that China and India were making a most ambitious attempt to get rid of a past scar on bilateral relations.
Relaxation of Sino-Indian boundary surprises the world
The Sino-Indian boundary line extending about 2,000 km is divided into three sections, east, middle and west. The area of the disputed regions is about 125,000 sq. km, of which the east section is about 90,000 sq. km, the middle section 2,000 sq. km, and the west section 33,000 sq. km. At present, the entire disputed regions in the east and middle sections are basically under India's control. On the Chinese side of the boundary, the topography is made up mainly of high mountains and bushes, the terrain there is dangerously steep and the weather is bad, half of the year is the icebound period; on the Indian side, the terrain is sloping gently and the natural condition is better.
The Sino-Indian boundary question was left over from history. In 1914, the British colonialists concocted the illegal "McMahon Line", which was not recognized by all previous Chinese central governments. After its independence in 1947, India inherited British occupation of part of Chinese territory and extended this to the "McMahon Line" in 1953. Based on its revised map, in 1959, India brazenly laid territorial claim to the Aksaiqin prefecture of Xinjiang, China. In October 1962, the Sino-Indian border war broke out.
The Sino-Indian boundary was once one of the world boundary lines where most troops were deployed. India disposed one-fourth of the nation's troops (about 250,000) in places near China's northern and eastern borders. However, what surprised world opinions most was that on this long un-delimited boundary line, no more conflicts had ever erupted since China and India signed respectively in 1993 and 1996 the two agreements: the agreement on "maintain peace and tranquility in the regions of the Sino-Indian border line of actual control" as well as the agreement on "trust-building measures in the military field in regions of the line of actual control". Furthermore, during the period when the other side was spending festival, officers and men of Chinese and Indian frontier guards would extend congratulations to each other. Leaders of both sides have time and again reiterated that the boundary question should not be an obstacle to the development of bilateral ties between the two countries, instead, the boundary issue should be resolved through peaceful negotiation.
Vajapee never forgets 'special representatives'
From 1960 when the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai went in person to New Delhi to hold talks with Nehru to 1979, Vajapee, then serving as Indian foreign minister made for the first time a proposal on appointing "special representatives" for Sino-Indian negotiations when he met Deng Xiaoping. Over the past decades, leaders of both sides have made a series of unremitting efforts in order to solve this problem left over from history. Along with the improvement of Sino-Indian relations in recent years, a fair and reasonable solution to the boundary issue through consultations on an equal footing has become an urgent task for further development of relations between the two countries.
Vajapee visited China in June this year. He still kelp in mind the proposal of over 20 years ago. As disclosed by Indian media, in conducting the first talks with Premier Wen Jiabao, Vajapee proposed appointing "special representatives" to solve territorial disputes between the two countries.
On June 23, in the "Declaration on the Principle Guiding Sino-Indian Relations and All-round Cooperation" jointly signed by the two countries, it is specially pointed out, the two sides of China and India "agreed to respectively appoint special representatives and, proceeding from the political angle of the general situation regarding bilateral ties, to explore "a framework for solving the boundary issue". The candidates finally determined respectively by both sides were Dai Bingguo, vice-foreign minister of China and Brajesh Mishra, advisor to Indian national security and chief secretary of the Prime Minister.
Both 'special representatives' are men of importance
Indian analysts pointed out that viewed from the seniority of the "special representatives" of both countries, leaders of both sides have shown to the international community their sincerity and determination to solve the boundary issue at an early date.
In the eyes of the Indian side, the current Chinese vice-foreign minister Dai Bingguo not only is a professional diplomat, but has served as head of the International Department, Central Committee of CPC for many years and so has very rich experiences. The Indian "special representative" is a figure with real power in the political arena of today's India and he has profound understanding of China. Mishra, honored as "chief counselor" by Indian media has had friendship with Vajapee for over two decades. Since 1998, Mishra has all along been the chief secretary of the Prime Minister and concurrently national security advisor. As the general coordinator of the Indian National Security Committee, he also directly takes charge of the leadership over the strategic policy group, and the Joint Intelligence Committee and the National Security Advisory Office under the Jurisdiction of the National Security Committee, providing advice for the government to formulate security strategy and to make decision. Early this year, Mishra took up the post as leader of the Indian Nuclear Power Command and Control Institution, which is responsible for offering proposals to the Political Committee with the Prime Minister as the chairman, and carrying out the order issued by the Political Committee on the use of nuclear weapons. During the period of 1969-72, Mishra served as Indian Charge d'affaires ad interim to China. In 1970, Chairman Mao, on the rostrum of Tiananmen, holding Mishra's hand, said, "Invariably we should be friends and should not keep on quarreling".
Since Vajapee's China visit, departments concerned of both sides have all along been making preparation for the talks. Many Indian media organizations have been anxiously expecting the arrival of the Chinese "special representative". Over the past few months, Indian colleagues asked this reporter: Why your "special representative" hasn't come yet?" Despite the complaints of some correspondents, four months have passed since Vajapee was back home from his China visit, and yet the Chinese representative hasn't come. In fact they are clear at heart, Vice-minister Dai has so far been busy himself with mediation on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula over the past few months, he is really too busy to attend to anything else.
Direct approach to principled issue
In the eyes of ranking Indian officials, since the establishment of the joint working team for the boundary issue at the vice-ministerial level, 14 rounds of talks have been held and maps on the middle-section boundary area were exchanged in 2000. But due to limited authorized powers, no major breakthroughs have ever been made in solving the most thorny question regarding the boundary in the eastern and western sections. The establishment of "special representatives" not only can raise the level of officials involved in dialogs, but also facilitate both sides to reduce intermediate links, they can directly probe into questions of principle and orientation.
Although Indian media have many conjectures about the first round of talks between the "special representatives" of China and India, their general view, however, is that because the unsettled Sino-Indian boundary issue has continued for too long, especially the problems on the regions on the eastern and western sections are relatively complicated, plus next year's general election of India, which takes place once every five years, such being the case, the near-term foreign policy of the Vajapee administration is designed to seek for stability and so would not make major compromise on the boundary issue. Representatives of the two countries would likely place their major energy on determining some major orientations and principled problems for the work of future negotiations. But, according to revelation by "Indian Bulletin" and other media, considering that the overwhelming majority of Indian voters are believes of Hinduism, by then the Indian side would possibly raise a routine matter without much connection with the boundary issue: Hoping the Chinese side could allow more Hinduism believers to go on a pilgrimage to the "sacred mountain and lake" located within Burang County of China's Tibet. Because the "sacred mountain and lake" are not only the famous Holy Land for Tibetan Buddhists, but also a major Holy Land which the vast number of Indian Hinduism believers have been longing to go.
Everything is difficult at the start. The media here points out that although it is difficult for the first "special representative"-level talks to bring quick result for the solution of the boundary issue, as an important measure adopted by both sides to build mutual trust, the present talks will undoubtedly help both countries push the solution of the boundary issue to the stage of concrete implementation.
Good neighborliness of China and India benefits the world
Sino-Indian relations have traversed a course from fighting war on the border in the past to today's special representatives holding hands and chatting cheerfully, the efforts made by both countries for solving the boundary issue show that promoting constant improvement of Sino-Indian relations has become a consensus of the policy-makers of both countries today. Over the past few months, the international community has witnessed a series of good interactions between the two countries as shown in the three meetings of Prime Minister Vajapee with Chinese leaders and the mutual support of the two countries at the WTO Kancun Conference. Experts on international issues predict that Sino-Indian relations are expected to step into "a period of stable development" unprecedented in the past decades.
Under the present complicated world situation, men of vision of the two countries have come to realize that developing stable pragmatic relations of good neighborliness and friendship is not only helpful to the two countries to concentrate their resources on economic construction, but also is conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the Asian region. From an international perspective, as the sponsor nations of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, China and India have many common languages in the aspects of promoting the process of multi-polarization and defending the rights and interests of the developing countries. Under the background of the constant improvement of bilateral relations, efforts made by the two countries to further strengthen cooperation in the fields of international military control, disarmament, anti-terrorism and environmental protection is, without doubt, of positive and far-reaching significance to the defense of world peace and stability.
(People's Daily October 28, 2003)