China’s State Councilor and Special Representative Dai Bingguo arrived in New Delhi on Sunday evening for two days of boundary talks with his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon.
Unlike the previous 14 rounds of talks since 2003, the two special representatives are expected to sign the first ever border mechanism under which New Delhi and Beijing will be in direct contact with each other in case of any border intrusion by eitherside.
The 15th round of talks on January 16 and 17 underscores the fact that the boundary issue is too complex to be resolved anytime soon, especially as India and China differ on the most fundamental question: how long is the India-China border, also known as Line of Actual Control (LAC)?
Due to disputes regarding the claim over certain territories, the LAC has long been undecided. India’s position is that the India-China border is 4,117 kilometers long, measured from the extreme eastern side (India-China-Burma junction) to the extreme northwestern end of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The Chinese, however, put the India-China borderat just about 2,000 kilometers, discounting the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh which they refer to as “Southern Tibet,” Jammu and Kashmir.
Alongside boundary talks, Dai and the Indian National Security Advisor Menon will also hold discussions on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.
The upcoming 15th round of talks on the boundary issue is an important diplomatic symbol in the context of Sino-Indian relations as the talks had to be abruptly cancelled in November 2011.
Around the same time of the arranged talks, a global Buddhist conclave was to be held in New Delhi that was to be attended by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Beijing pulled out of the boundary talks at the eleventh hour. The Buddhist conclave went on as scheduled and the Dalai Lama participated, though the top Indian political leadership stayed away, an action that didn’t go unnoticed by Beijing. The fact that the two sides have resumed the Special Representatives-level boundary dialogue is indicative of their resolve to stay engaged despite pin pricks to their bilateral ties.
The boundary talks have already progressed to the second stage whereinthe two sides tackle the most delicate and difficult part of the negotiations: evolving a framework for delineating the border on the map.