In its first official response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal for a clarification on the Line of Actual Control, Beijing has said that it would rather prefer a pact with India on a code of conduct along the disputed border territory to maintain peace. The deputy director general of Asian Affairs at the Chinese foreign ministry Huang <g data-gr-id="39">Xilian</g> said that both sides should try to reach an agreement on a code of conduct as attempts to clarify mutual positions on the LAC had “encountered difficulties” in the past.
In a separate announcement, which will definitely catch the attention of foreign policy mandarins in New Delhi, <g data-gr-id="40">Xilian</g> also said that China is opposed to India’s bid to explore oil and natural gas in the South China Sea because it is a disputed area. Beijing, however, regards its ambitious USD 46 billion economic <g data-gr-id="34">corridor</g> through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir a “livelihood project” with issues left over from history. New Delhi is yet to respond to Beijing’s assertions at the time of publication.
The clarification on the LAC was the Indian government’s fundamental demand for a faster resolution on the border issue, which saw armies on both sides squaring up against each other when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited New Delhi last year. Talks between both sides have clearly made no headway, despite 17 rounds of talks. Under the Modi administration, New Delhi has time and again made its position clear to Beijing that the boundary question was holding back ties between both countries. Clearly, Beijing seems to be in no mood to engage, despite New Delhi’s constant pleas. Although New Delhi must show a measure of restraint in its response, the Modi government must continue to nudge China towards a clarification. Despite all the praise that has been showered on Prime Minister Modi’s diplomatic skills, the current situation will be a true test of his government’s foreign policy nous.
China’s objection to oil exploration projects in the disputed waters of the South China Sea does not hold water. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has been awarded oil exploration contracts by Vietnam in the South China Sea (SCS). However, in the past China has voiced objections to Indian state-owned firm’s participation in Vietnam’s oil exploration projects if they fall into disputed areas.
India defended the projects saying that they are purely commercial projects and need not be politicised. China claims sovereignty over almost all of SCS, which is objected by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Therefore Beijing’s assertion that its projects in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir are merely for the “livelihood of people” seems insincere at best. The Line of Control with Pakistan continues to be a temporary arrangement between both sides. The region, experts argue, continues to fall under the realm of “disputed territory”. With the constant flow of Pakistan-sponsored militants from that side of the border, Beijing’s assertion that its projects in the region are not “political” is clearly misplaced.