Well on track
India, China build more trust
The talks between the new Prime Ministers of India and China on the sidelines of the Asian Summit in Laos on Tuesday are significant and bound to bring the two countries closer. The relations between the two countries have been on the mend since Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China 16 years ago. They moved forward when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Beijing in June 2003. The two countries are likely to come closer as a result of the talks between Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Wen Jaibao. Even if the two Prime Ministers did not come out with dramatic announcements, it is clear from what they said after the meeting that New Delhi and Beijing have begun trusting each other in great measure and believing in mutual keenness to build a relationship befitting for Asia’s two emerging giants placed next to each other.
The element of trust prevailing in the meeting was evident from the fact that the Chinese Prime Minister did not rub in the Tibet question as was the experience in previous encounters. India had always maintained that Tibet was an Autonomous Region of China, implying that it was a part of China. During his visit, Mr Vajpayee made it known India’s categorical position that Tibet is a part of China and also that India would not allow Tibetans in India to indulge in political activity. China in return amended its maps showing Sikkim as a part of India. In Laos India is believed to have pointed out that it was time Beijing formally made the announcement about it. Mr Wen’s response was somewhat positive and it is possible Mr Wen may make such an announcement during his visit to India in March 2005.
While details are yet to filter down, it is plain the border dispute remains fairly on the back-burner. While India is happy at the progress the relations have made in the recent years, it certainty would like the border question get out of the way at the earliest. The High Representatives of the two countries have met four times, but it appears they would need greater political support from the high-ups to resolve the differences. Mr J. N. Dixit and China’s Dai Bingguo may have to meet again quite a few times before the two countries come to an agreement.
The Chinese Prime Minister reiterated the stand that the boundary question should be resolved on the “basis of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation and political will”. Dr Manmohan Singh replied that any “mutual accommodation must take into account the ground realities”. Since territories and “give-and-take” are involved in the question, much will depend on what kind of message Mr Wen brings with him when he visits India in March. “The handshake between you and me will catch the attention of the world,” he said sounding promising, but without spelling out. Mr Dixit and Mr Dai may have to work much harder in the coming months, but the plus point in the situation is that the relations between the two countries are firmly on track and better than before.