Chinese claim on Sikkim tip minor: India

May 19th, 2008 - 8:48 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) India Sunday described as “minor and local” a Chinese claim on a northern tip of Sikkim adjoining Tibet, saying such issues were not new. “It is a minor and local issue,” an official source here said.

“These problems will happen,” the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“India and China have the world’s longest peaceful border even though this is not settled,” the source pointed out.

The latest flashpoint in the otherwise warming India-China ties lies in the northernmost tip of Sikkim and appears on the map like a protruding finger and has thus been named Finger Area.

It contains several stone cairns or heaps of stones that demarcate the India-China frontier. China has now threatened to demolish these cairns, a move that has surprised New Delhi, which says that such a move would violate a pact to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as the frontier is referred to.

At a scheduled border personnel meeting at Nathu La in Sikkim Thursday, India served notice it would not permit Chinese troops to enter the area.

A day earlier, at a Beijing luncheon meeting between an Indian team led by Indian Ambassador to China Nirupama Rao and a Chinese team led by Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs He Yafei, an Indian diplomat was informed of Chinese objections to New Delhi’s stance.

“China is following the right procedure in informing us of its stance,” the source said.

“If an issue cannot be resolved at a flag meeting, it is taken to a higher level,” the source added.

The build-up to the row began last year when Chinese troops began to frequent the area and even constructing a road that crossed the Finger Area.

India then lodged a diplomatic protest in February after which the road construction near the area came to a halt. India also started strengthening its positions and constructing pathways in the area - a move that prompted China to re-emphasise its claim to the area.

“Issues will arise whenever you rub shoulders with each other,” the source said, pointing to the “live and let live” policy the two armies had adopted on the LAC.

“Since the boundary has yet to be defined, there is often a lack of perception on where it lies. Sometimes, their troops come into what we perceive as our area and sometimes our troops go into areas the Chinese perceive to be theirs,” an army officer who has served in the area said.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor have often spoken in similar vein, pointing out that the two countries have a mechanism in place to resolve their boundary row even as they move ahead in improving their political, economic and cultural ties.

The Indian and Chinese armies also conducted their first war games in China late last year. Another joint drill is to be conducted in India later this year.

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