India, China to continue boundary talks

March 19th, 2009 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) India and China are exploring dates to hold the next round of talks to resolve their decades-old boundary dispute, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said here Thursday while calling for more economic interaction between the two sides.
“We are looking at new dates for boundary talks. We never stopped the dialogue. Therefore, there is no question of resuming it,” Menon told experts and journalists here when asked when India and China were planning to resume boundary talks.

“The boundary issue is essentially an issue that is decided between the two sovereign governments. The dialogue is continuing,” Menon said.

Menon was speaking at the launch of “India China Relations: The Border Issue and Beyond,” at the Observer Research Foundation, a public policy think tank. The book has been co-authored by Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawer Daulet Singh.

The 13th round of boundary talks are expected to take place in June-July after a new government is formed in New Delhi, reliable sources said.

Menon also underlined that India has pushed hard for opening of border trade and promotion of people-to-people contacts between the two countries. Bilteral trade has already surpassed $40 billion.

Alluding to reports of Chinese incursions along the border, Menon said both sides have maintained status quo. “It’s one of the most peaceful borders in the world. The last person to die on the border was way back in 1975 and that was an accident,” he said.

“China has condemned it and they think that this kind of terrorism is a threat to the entire world,” Menon replied when asked about China’s stance towards the Mumbai terror attacks that has frozen ties between India and Pakistan, regarded by many as Beijing’s “all-weather friend.”

India and China last held the 12th round of boundary talks between their Special Representatives in September last year in the shadow of a controversy over Beijing’s attempt to block a consensus on the India-specific waiver at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The 12 round of talks have, however, yet to produce any visible results due to “divergences and differences” over basic issues.

Over three months ago, External Affiars Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said there were “areas of concern…not concern, but areas of differences and divergences with regard to the border dispute.”

The two countries appointed Special Representatives in 2003 to resolve the decades-old issue that has shadowed ties between the two risiing Asian powers. In 2005, the two countries agreed on a set of guiding principles and political paramanters to resolve the boundary issue.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq kms of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

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