Chill creeps into India-China ties

Row over South China Sea looms large

Chill creeps into India-China ties

The Special Representatives—India’s National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and China’s State Councillor Dai Bingguo—were expected to hold the 15th round of talks on the protracted boundary dispute in New Delhi on Monday and Tuesday.

They were expected to firm up the proposed “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs,” an additional arrangement involving senior diplomats of both countries to urgently deal with any evolving situation along the Line of Actual Control. The dates of the Special Representative level talks were not made public officially. Sources earlier said Special Representative Dai would travel to New Delhi to hold the next round of SR-level talks with Menon. The two SRs held the 14th round of talks in Beijing on November 30, last year.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), however, on Friday stated that New Delhi and Beijing were in touch with each other to set dates for the SR-level talks in the near future, hinting that the parleys scheduled for Monday and Tuesday had been deferred indefinitely.

“We are looking forward to the 15th round of SR talks in the near future and the two sides remain in touch to find convenient dates for the meeting,” said Vishnu Prakash, official spokesperson and Joint Secretary (External Publicity) of the MEA.

The statement was issued a day after China’s state-run Xinhua news agency stated in a commentary that India’s “jitters” and fears over China’s growing clout in the region was caused by an “inferiority complex” and “loud jealousy”.

The SR-level talks were postponed in the backdrop of New Delhi brushing aside Beijing’s objections to the role of India’s ONGC Videsh Limited in hydrocarbon exploration in offshore blocks claimed by Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing said it was opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration in “waters under the jurisdiction of China.” China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

New Delhi refuted the Chinese objection, stating that its ties with Vietnam in the hydrocarbon sector were in accordance with the international laws and it would like the bilateral cooperation to grow in the coming years. India went ahead to strengthen its hydrocarbon ties with Vietnam.

During a meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Bali in Indonesia earlier this month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that Indian interests in the South China Sea were “purely commercial” in nature and sovereignty claims on the disputed waters must be settled according to international law. Wen sent out a message of warning while addressing the Asean leaders in Bali and stated that “outside forces” should not, under any pretext, get involved with the dispute on the South China Sea.

Earlier in late July, an Indian Navy vessel, the ‘INS Airavat’, was reportedly warned by the Chinese Navy off the coast of Vietnam against entering “Chinese waters”. India also flexed its muscle last week with the successful test of new-generation 3,500-km Agni IV missile, followed by an announcement that Agni V, with a strike range of over 5,000 km would be test-fired in just three months.

Frozen relations

* Special representatives of the two countries were scheduled to hold the 15th round of talks

* They were expected to firm up an additional arrangement involving senior diplomats to urgently deal with any evolving situation along the Line of Actual Control

* Statement comes a day after Chinese news agency commented on India’s ‘jitters’ and fears over China’s growing clout in the region caused by “inferiority complex” and “loud jealousy”

* Foreign ministry says both sides in touch to set convenient dates for talks in the near future

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