September 25, 2005

India, China aim to draft plan to end border row

By Y.P. Rajesh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Asian giants India and China enter
the toughest leg of their attempts to settle a decades-old
border row as envoys of the two countries hold talks this week
to draw up a plan to mark their large frontier.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with
Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the U.N.
General Assembly in New York this month and agreed to pursue a
reasonable solution to the dispute with a greater urgency.

"The two sides feel that they have an opportunity to pursue
a pragmatic solution based on the political parameters agreed
between them," an Indian foreign ministry official said ahead
of the talks which start on Monday.

"The talks in Beijing between special representatives of
the two sides will take this process forward."

Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Chinese
Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo will meet for two days.

Relations between the world's two most populous nations,
who fought a brief but brutal border war in 1962, have greatly
improved, largely due to burgeoning economic ties. But the
border dispute remains a sticking point.

The neighbors share a 2,200-mile border, largely along the
icy Himalayan mountains. Both sides claim the other is
occupying parts of its territory.

New Delhi disputes Beijing's rule over 15,000 square miles
of barren, icy and uninhabited land on the Tibetan plateau,
which China seized from India in the 1962 war.

China claims 35,000 square miles of territory ruled by
India in the eastern part of the border, mostly in the state of
Arunachal Pradesh.


Earlier this year, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited
India, the two countries agreed on an 11-point roadmap to
settle the border row politically, rather than technically,
keeping in mind the growing warmth between them.

This, some analysts say, is an attempt toward accepting the
status quo and hammering out a swap where the Chinese give up
claims in the east in return for Indian recognition of Chinese
sovereignty in the strategic Aksai Chin area in the west.

This week's talks in Beijing form the second leg of that
roadmap, and would involve drawing up an agreed framework to
lead to a settlement.

Analysts on both sides, however, did not appear optimistic
about the two sides being able to pin down where exactly their
border lies as they had differences even on the ceasefire line,
called the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

"It is still very difficult for the two sides to reach a
consensus or understanding on the Line of Actual Control," said
Han Hua, who teaches international studies at Peking

"There would be no final settlement of the border issue in
the next several years, because it is too complicated," she
said. "It is not only a territorial problem but also involves
religious, cultural and historical factors. It would be a long
and arduous process."

Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at New Delhi's
Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, agreed.

He said India was yet to officially accept a territory
swap. Even if it did, the move would have to be approved by
two-thirds of parliament, failing which any pact would remain

"The border talks started in 1981 and we have since been
discussing and discussing with no solution in sight,"
Kondapalli said. "It appears that both sides are just buying

(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng in BEIJING)