China gives India draft framework to settle border row

China gives India draft framework to settle border row

New Delhi again turns down Beijing's proposal for an "early harvest" deal, but agree to formulate new "management rules" to maintain peace along disputed boundary.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Fisherman's Cove in Kovalam near Mamallapuram. (Reuters Photo)

China on Saturday put forward a draft framework to resolve its protracted boundary dispute with India, even as two sides agreed to formulate a new set of code of conduct to maintain peace along the de facto borders between them. 

India kept resisting China’s nudge to opt for a piecemeal approach to settle the boundary row. The two sides agreed to set up a hotline between the Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army in order to avert occasional flashpoints along the disputed boundary between the two neighbouring nations.

India and China held the 22nd round of boundary negotiations in New Delhi on Saturday. It was the first such engagement between the two nations to resolve the row after China accused India of unilaterally changing the status quo along the disputed boundary with its August 5 move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and reorganize the state into two Union Territories.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval hosted Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in New Delhi for the talks. Doval and Wang are at present the Special Representatives of the respective governments to lead negotiators for resolving the boundary disputes.

China has put forward “a practical framework for solving the boundary question” and India has “attached importance” to it, a press release issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese Government quoted Wang saying during a separate meeting with Vice President Venkaiah Naidu.

Sources in New Delhi said that the framework China presented to India was just a draft and negotiations would continue to work out a mutually acceptable document.

Beijing on Saturday claimed that the framework China presented to India was in accordance with the “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of Boundary Question”, which the two sides had agreed on in 2005.  

An agreement on the framework would clear the way for the next step for settlement of the dispute – demarcation of the boundary on the ground.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi said in a press-release that the talks had been constructive with focus on taking forward the India-China closer developmental partnership as per the guidance provided by Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2nd Informal Summit in Chennai last October. They reached a consensus that both sides should respect each other’s sensitivities and concerns in order to build mutual trust, as this was important for the future development of the bilateral relations.

China once again nudged India to go for a piecemeal approach to settle the dispute, beginning by clinching an “early harvest” deal on the less disputed stretches of the boundary in the Middle Sector, before moving to settle the more contentious Eastern and Western Sectors.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a separate press-release that the two sides had “exchanged views on the early harvest of the boundary negotiations”.  

Doval reiterated to Wang that India would prefer “a complete package deal” covering the entire length of its boundary with China, according to the sources in New Delhi.

Beijing claimed that India and China had on Saturday agreed to formulate “management rules” for maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas. The press-release issued by the MEA in New Delhi too said that the two Special Representatives had recognized the importance of existing Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to promote exchanges and communication between the border personnel and to ensure predictability in border management as well as strategic communication. They also agreed to work together to put in place more CBMs, added the MEA.

Sources in New Delhi said that what Beijing referred to as “management rules” was, in fact, a new Border Code of Conduct the two sides had been discussing over the past few years and it might be finalized and formally put in place when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh would visit Beijing for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe early next year.

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