China-India ties finally on the move after freeze
By Sanjeev Miglani
SHANGHAI: The first visit by an Indian prime minister to China in a decade produced a spate of agreements and flourishes of rhetoric, but no major breakthrough in ties between the suspicious neighbours, analysts said.
The visit by Atal Behari Vajpayee did not, one New Delhi-based Indian analyst said on Wednesday, “change the underlying dynamics of the India-China relationship”.
Nevertheless, with both making concessions on contentious border issues and moving towards greater trade between countries which are home to one-third of the world’s people, a long-frozen relationship is now on the move, they said.
India, for the first time, accepted in writing that Tibet was part of China, an issue dear to Beijing. China agreed to open trade through disputed Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan state annexed by New Delhi in 1975.
And while Beijing insisted that did not mean acceptance of Indian sovereignty over Sikkim, Chinese analyst Sun Shihai called it “indirect” recognition.
These were small but significant advances for two countries which fought a brief border war in 1962, leaving ties in tatters for decades until the territorial disputes were effectively put on one side in the late 1980s.
That reduced tension along the 3,500 km (2,175 mile) border which runs the length of the Himalayas through some of the world’s most inhospitable land.
Now, one of the agreements signed in Beijing appoints special envoys to sort out the border mess, both of them powerful figures in their governments.
“We will go beyond a peaceful and tranquil border to a step further: a border where there can be trade and tourism,” said foreign policy analyst G Parthasarathy, a former senior Indian diplomat.
Indian businessmen, who have only recently started to examine China’s booming market, would be thrilled, said TK Bhaumik, economic adviser to the Confederation of Indian Industry.
“It is a significant breakthrough economically as well as politically,” he said. “It is great encouragement for Indian companies investing in China and a great confidence booster.”
Even so, analysts on both sides said no one should get carried away.
Lack of mutual trust still existed and “is an obstacle to the healthy development of China-Indian relations”, said Sun, a South Asia expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“It is impossible for the two countries to establish total mutual trust through just one visit,” Sun said.
Parthasarathy added: “We should not get carried away by the hype surrounding this visit.
“We have to see if the Chinese are now more responsible on the issue of nuclear and missile proliferation,” he said, referring to Indian charges of Chinese help to the nuclear arms programme of arch-foe Pakistan. Beijing denies those accusations.
Indian analysts said Vajpayee had been hoping for help from China, a long-time friend of Pakistan, in efforts to forge peace between New Delhi and Islamabad.
But while China has moved away from uncritical backing of Islamabad, whose President Pervez Musharraf met US President George W Bush on Tuesday, “China will not abandon Pakistan because it is developing relations with India,” Sun said. (Additional reporting by Kamil Zaheer and Surojit Gupta in New Delhi and Benjamin Kang Lim in Beijing). —Reuters
Indian media hails India-China agreements on trade, border issues
NEW DELHI: The Indian media on Wednesday lauded a slew of agreements, including a joint declaration and another on border trade, reached between Asian giants India and China, hailing them as a “triumph for pragmatism.”
The agreements were initialled on Monday, the second day of a six-day visit by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to China, but details were only released Tuesday.
In an editorial, the Hindu newspaper said the decision by both sides to launch an initiative to “break the impasse over the boundary dispute” should boost bilateral ties. The paper described the initiative as the “centrepiece” of the Beijing declaration and said it was “both acknowledgement of the year-long deadlock over exchange of boundary maps and the political resolve to end it at the earliest.” Ties between the world’s two most populous countries have for decades been plagued by tensions over issues such as Tibet and their mutual borders, with the two countries fighting a bitter border conflict in 1962 and tension flaring again in 1986.
India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometres (14,670 square miles) of territory in Kashmir while Beijing lays claim to 90,000 square kilometres (34,750 square miles) of land in Arunachal Pradesh — virtually the entire state. Noting that this was the first joint declaration to be released by the two countries, the Hindu paper said it gave “the seal of formal approval to the pragmatism and proven step-by-step approach to problem solving.”
The declaration and the memorandum of understanding on border trade “has the potential to end a long period of mutual suspicion,” it added. A striking aspect of the evolving relationship “is the conscious decision to anchor bilateral relations to economics through greater trade and investments,” the editorial noted. This view was echoed by an editorial in the Hindustan Times which noted that “an emphasis on trade” had marked Vajpayee’s China visit.
This was reflected in an agreement to allow trade through the ancient Nathu La pass in India’s north eastern state of Sikkim into Tibet, the Hindustan Times said.
Beijing had been strongly opposed to the merger of the Himalayan province — sandwiched between Bhutan, China and Nepal — with India in 1975. —AFP