India and China agreed on Saturday to intensify efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to their border dispute and work on more CBMs to maintain peace and tranquillity along the frontier.
Against the backdrop of fresh irritants such as China’s recent attempt to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council, the Special Representatives on the border issue agreed both sides should “respect each other’s sensitivities and concerns” to build trust, the external affairs ministry said.
The talks between the Special Representatives – National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi – in New Delhi were described by the ministry as “constructive with focus on taking forward the India-China Closer Developmental Partnership as per the guidance provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping” at their second informal summit in Mamallapuram in October.
“The Special Representatives resolved to intensify their efforts to achieve a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the India-China boundary question in accordance with the directives provided by PM Modi and President Xi Jinping,” the ministry said in a statement.
“There was a consensus that both sides should respect each other’s sensitivities and concerns in order to build mutual trust, as this was important for the future development of the bilateral relations,” the statement added.
Days ahead of the meeting, China had irked India by again raising the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council on behalf of its close ally Pakistan. France and other permanent members of the council thwarted China’s bid to have a discussion on the situation in Kashmir during a meeting behind closed doors on December 17 by pointing out this is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
The Special Representatives agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas for developing bilateral relations, and they recognised the importance of existing confidence building measures (CBMs) to promote exchanges and communication between border personnel and to “ensure predictability in border management as well as strategic communication”.
They also agreed to work together for more CBMs, the statement said.
A separate statement issued by the Chinese embassy quoted Wang as saying the two sides should “promote early harvest consultations”, strengthen CBMs and cooperation, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity on the frontier.
“The two sides exchanged views on the early harvest of the boundary negotiations and reached a consensus on strengthening confidence-building measures. They agreed to formulate management rules for maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” the Chinese statement said.
“They also agreed to strengthen communication and exchanges between the border forces of the two countries and set up hotlines between the relevant departments of the two armed forces, add border meeting points, expand border trade and personnel exchanges,” it added.
Wang also said the meeting of the Special Representatives is an important platform for strategic communication between the two sides, which should strengthen cooperation to jointly defend multi-lateralism, fairness and justice, and to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests. He added that the two sides should promote high level exchanges and institutional dialogues, deepen practical cooperation, and manage commemorative activities to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2020.
The first informal summit between Modi and Xi, at Wuhan in 2018, was organised following the 73-day military standoff at Doklam the previous year. Since then, the two sides have focused on measures to prevent such eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations and to maintain peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
At the second informal summit, Modi and Xi agreed the two sides would enhance strategic communication on all matters and not allow differences to become disputes.
The Special Representatives also reviewed the progress made since the second informal summit, and underlined the importance of approaching the border issue from the “strategic perspective of India-China relations and agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries”, the external affairs ministry said.
As in the past, the two sides shared the view that stable and balanced development of India-China ties is a positive factor for peace and prosperity in the region and the world.
The Special Representatives exchanged views on important bilateral, regional and global issues. Wang also called on vice president M Venkaiah Naidu.
According to a Chinese statement, Wang told Naidu: “According to the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the India-China boundary question, China has put forward a practical framework for solving the boundary question, to which the Indian side has attached importance.”
The meeting of the Special Representatives was earlier scheduled for mid-September but was called off at the last minute.
China criticised India’s decision to scrap the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 and it also objected to the creation of the union territory of Ladakh, a region it claims, but this was rejected by New Delhi.
India told China the change was an internal matter for India and had no implication for the country’s external boundaries or the LAC with China.
The two sides do not agree on several stretches of their 3,488-km border and have differences on Aksai Chin, a high-altitude region of about 37,000 sq km, and another 84,000 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh.