India, China To Strengthen Mechanism To Prevent Ladakh Like Incursion

India, China To Strengthen Mechanism To Prevent Ladakh Like Incursion

20 May 2013
The Daily Excelsior


New Delhi: Taking stock of “lessons learnt” from the recent Chinese incursion in the Ladakh region, India and China today decided to strengthen the mechanism to prevent such incidents in future and to “push forward” the talks for an early settlement of the contentious border dispute. This emerged after two rounds of talks between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang here. The two had first met at Singh’s residence last night and followed that up with full delegation talks this morning. Their “candid” talks went off well with both sides agreeing to maintain peace and tranquility along the border and also signing as many as eight pacts including on trade, culture and water resources. Other contentious issues raised during the talks were Chinese construction of dams on Brahmaputra river and trade imbalance of over USD 27 billion in favour of China. Noting that they “took stock of lessons learnt from the recent incident in the Western Sector, when existing mechanisms proved their worth”, Singh, at a joint press event with Li, said, “We have tasked our Special Representatives (SRs) to consider further measures that may be needed to maintain peace and tranquility along the border. “We agreed that our SRs will meet soon to continue discussions, seeking early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement.” On his part, Li, while admitting that there were “some problems” between the two countries, said, “Both sides believe that, with regard to the boundary question, one that is leftover by history, the two sides have over time established the principles on this question. “In the meantime, we have worked together to maintain tranquility and peace on the border,” Li said, adding, “We need to confront various issues with a broad mind and conduct dialogue on those issues in a mature and sensible way”. The visiting dignitary said both sides believe that “we need to improve the various border related mechanisms that we have put in place and make them more efficient and appropriately manage and resolve our differences.” A joint statement said Singh and Li encouraged their respective SRs “to push forward the process of negotiations and seek a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement in accordance with the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles”. Li, who arrived here yesterday on his first foreign official visit after assuming office in March, also said, “We need to appropriately handle our cooperation by maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas and on the trans-border river issues.” Later, briefing reporters on the two rounds of talks between Singh and Li, India’s Ambassador to China S Jaishankar said the visit was coming after an incident (of Chinese incursion) which was “unusual” and basically where the discussions headed was that “we need to look into how this happened and what are the lessons to be learnt”. He also noted that SRs of India and China will be “looking into the mechanisms, how they have worked, what were the shortcomings and how this (incursion) happened” and if they have suggestions to make to both Governments. On another contentious issue of trans-border rivers, Singh said, “I also reiterated to Premier Li India’s concerns about the effects on lower riparians of activities in the upper reaches of our shared rivers” while seeking enhanced mandate of Expert Level Mechanism to include information sharing on upstream development projects on these rivers. This comes in the backdrop of India’s concern over the Chinese proposal to construct three more dams across the Brahmaputra river. India has said the proposal to construct dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu in Tibet would affect water flow to India, while China maintained that it was just run- off-the-river project that would not hold water. Noting that in recent years China has shared hydrological information with the Indian side bearing in mind the overall interest of bilateral relationship and acting in humanitarian spirit, Li said “we stand ready to step up communication with the Indian side with regard to developmental water resources and environmental protection”. Terming Li’s visit as “significant, substantive and a productive” where the Chinese leader made the “chemistry point”, Jaishanker said “there were wide-ranging talks, candid. All matters were discussed. And it took place at a time when actually the relationship is expanding in many ways, cooperation is growing.” On bilateral economic ties, the Prime Minister said he has conveyed India’s concerns about the trade deficit and sought increased market access from China for the country’s exports and investments. Singh also invited increased Chinese involvement “in the vast opportunities in our infrastructure and manufacturing sectors”. While striving to realise the trade turnover target of USD 100 billion by 2015, the two countries agreed to take measures to address the issue of trade imbalance. These include cooperation on pharmaceutical supervision including registration, stronger links between Chinese enterprises and Indian IT industry, and completion of phytosanitary negotiations on agro-products, the joint statement said. In 2012, bilateral trade was USD 66 billion, a decline over the USD 74 billion in 2011. The two countries have set a target of USD 100 billion by 2015 for bilateral trade. India faces a growing trade deficit vis-a-vis China. By end 2011, India’s trade deficit was USD 27 billion. According to Chinese trade figures released in January 2013, the figure rose to USD 29 billion by 2012. Apart from trade, India is also the largest market for project exports from China. Jaishanker said that economic issues took up a lot of time in the discussion. “Obviously trade including the trade deficit, market access issues came up at some length. What we saw was that the Chinese Premier suggested very practical measures on how to deal with this. “I would say, in the last few years certainly this was the most positive and most practical response that we have got at the high level from the Chinese side. Again some of it was in evidence in the agreements which were signed in terms of greater market access,” he said. On forthcoming outgoing visits, Jaishankar said “I think the follow-up which we are looking at is that Raksha Mantri, Defence Minister, would be going to China soon. The dates would be announced when we are ready. National Security Advisor (Shiv Shankar) Menon would also be going to China as Special Representative to meet his counterpart.” Asked if China raised the Tibet issue, he said “the matter came up, not at any great length, and our response was that the Tibetans in India do not conduct political activities from Indian soil, and we stand by that position.” Apart from bilateral issues, Jaishankar said regional matters and those of global economy were discussed at some length. “…Developing nations like India and China have a shared interest in a more open economy, in a less protectionist economy,” he said. He also noted that regional trade and connectivity also came up for discussion and included issues like “the RCEP and the RTA, the bilateral FTA, which as many of you would be aware is a goal that we are looking at when conditions are right.” There was an agreement that “we will conduct a study on economic corridor of Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar countries which of course would also now require us to consult Bangladesh and Myanmar before that goes forward,” he said. “There was some discussion today on Afghanistan, and I think the Afghanistan position is very accurately captured by the Joint Statement,” he said. According to the statement, the two sides agreed that the Afghanistan issue concerns regional security and stability and as two important countries in the region, they reiterated their support for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” reconciliation process. Asked on repeated usage of “strategic consensus” by Li during his impromptu speech during the joint press event, the Indian envoy said, “the way he used that term to the best of my understanding is that we have agreed on big and basic issues on how to take our relations forward. “When you use the adjective strategic, it both indicates in a sense the long-term nature of the understandings between us and the enormity of the implications of what it is that we were discussing.” Li also said he wanted to build trust and cooperation on his trip, asserting that world peace and regional stability cannot be a reality without strategic mutual trust between India and China. “And likewise, the development and prosperity of the world cannot be a reality without the cooperation and simultaneous development of China and India,” he said.