Special Representatives (SRs) of India and China will sit down on Monday to resolve the long standing border dispute between the two countries. With this they aim to set the framework for resolution, while synchronously preparing for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in the month of May. Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi will meet Ajit Doval and Narendra Modi during his visit. This will be the first in a series of high-level talks with Jiechi; the stated purpose being “clarifying and understanding each other’s positions”. This would be the latest in a line of overtures from the present government to their counterparts in Beijing. The talks would center around — roughly 2,000 km along Arunachal Pradesh and about 4,000 km along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, especially the Aksai Chin area taken over by China in the aftermath of the 1962 war.
These talks will be a crucial opportunity for New Delhi to reach the necessary understanding and compromises required to resolve the festering wound which is the border dispute. Hopefully Doval and Jiechi will reach a preliminary understanding which can give a much needed impetus to the talks. Given the deadlock between the two countries, which hinders the possibility of them reaching a final settlement; India and China have focused on the more pragmatic manoeuvre of maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC. Although incursions by both sides have occasionally raised tensions; the situation along the LAC has more or less been in control. The tricky issue which both parties must resolve is reaching a middle ground on where the LAC actually lies. In this measly half-measures and diplomatic back-pedalling won’t do. Unless and until India and China reach a mutual consensus on where the LAC lies, things can’t move forward.
The lack of agreement on the LAC has impeded many confidence-building measures during the past decade. Hence both countries would deem it politically expedient to clarify where they stand on this issue. The greatest opportunity for both sides however lies in broadening the scope for bilateral engagement between the two. If New Delhi and Beijing can move forward on important issues like intensification of trade, people to people contact and tourism, it will go a long way in fostering better relations between the two. Expanding economic co-operation between the two giants would be a step in the right direction. Both India and China must realise that there is a lot to gain from amicable relations between the two rising superpowers of Asia.