India and China will try to narrow differences on a proposed framework to resolve the boundary dispute, when National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will meet Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo for an ‘informal’ parley in Beijing on December 3 and 4 next.
“We are in the process of agreeing on a framework to settle the boundary and the next step, hopefully the third stage, is to actually agree on a boundary. Right now we are at the second stage,” the National Security Adviser said ahead of his visit to Beijing that comes close on the heels of the row over the maps in China’s new e-passports that depicted Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as parts of the communist country.
Menon and Dai are Special Representatives of India and China for the talks to resolve the boundary dispute. The two countries’ had 15 rounds of talks at the level of Special Representatives since 2003, with the last being held on January 16-17 this year.
However, the discussion the two SRs are scheduled to hold early next month is not being designated as the 16th round of talks and is rather being termed as an ‘informal’ parley, ostensibly because China is going through a transition and a new leadership is set to take over in March 2013.
Sources told Deccan Herald that Menon and Dai would next month hold discussions on the framework, which the two countries had been trying to give shape to during the last few rounds of formal talks.
They added that the framework might not be finalised now and the two countries would resume work on it and try to move towards its formal adoption, only after new leadership in Beijing would appoint Dai’s successor to restart the Special Representative level talks.
After the first five rounds of parleys between the two Special Representatives, India and China signed an agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the dispute, signaling the end of the first phase of the process. The 15th round of talks in January ended with the two countries agreeing to set up the “Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs” – an additional arrangement at the level of senior diplomats to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control till New Delhi and Beijing resolve the protracted boundary dispute.
During the talks on December 3 and 4, Menon and Dai might also agree on a joint record on the progresses made so far in the Special Representative level talks and forward it to the Governments in both New Delhi and Beijing, said sources. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid last week termed as ‘unacceptable’ the maps on China’s new e-passports depicting Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as territories of the communist country. The Indian Embassy in Beijing responded by issuing visas to Chinese nationals with a map of India, showing both as parts of the country.
Menon on Monday sought to play down the row though. “What has changed? Chinese have a view on where the boundary lies, which is why we are having discussions on the boundary because we have differences on where the boundary is,” he said, after releasing six books on China at the Observer Research Foundation. “The Chinese chose to put a watermark on their passports which shows the boundaries as they see it. We show our boundary as we see it on visas that we issue. So, what has changed?” he added.
New Delhi alleges that Beijing is illegally occupying some part of Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, Islamabad ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China in 1963.