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Tawang dispute blocking India-China border talks: NSA

Source: PTI
August 12, 2008 19:21 IST
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India and China will hold the next round of boundary talks soon, but the lingering dispute over the Buddhist enclave of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is preventing efforts by the two countries to "cross the rubicon," National Security Adviser M K Narayanan has said.

"We are working toward an agreed framework. Five or six points, the more difficult points are settled. What is important is that areas of convergence are increasing. But areas of divergence remain. Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh state, remains the most important," Narayanan, also the special representative to the India-China boundary talks, said.

"Till that (the issue of Tawang) is settled whatever else we may do, it is difficult to say we have crossed the rubicon," Narayanan said in an interview to Straits Times of Singapore.

"When they (the Chinese) talk in terms of movement forward, they keep arguing Tawang has always been a part of Tibet, which is a matter of debate," he said.

Tawang, nestled among the mountains in Arunachal Pradesh has long been a serious bone of contention between India and China.

He noted that the two sides have an agreement worked out in 2005 that areas of settled populations were not negotiable.

"Tawang is an area with substantial settled populations. Not a small number. It flies in the face of guiding principles and political parameters (for China to demand it). How we work out... whether I have the ingenuity or Mr Dai (Bingguo, the Chinese special representative) has the flexibility, we will see," Narayanan said.

Though he dismissed reports that the boundary talks have "gone cold," Narayanan acknowledged that he could not hold talks with Dai during the last six months.

"They (the talks) have not gone cold. Far from it. Last six months they put everything on hold. Next month we will be holding the talks. It is my turn to go across (to China)," Narayanan said, without giving a specific date for talks.

"We were supposed to meet earlier this year, but my counterpart Dai Bingguo was getting upgraded," Narayanan said referring to the Chinese official's elevation as a state councillor from vice foreign minister.

"So there was doubt whether he would be the interlocutor. By the time that got settled they got into the Olympic mode. We have been in touch. We are very comfortable, quite happy with the progress we have made," he said.

Commenting on reports of frequent Chinese army intrusions into India, he said: "Chinese have been a little more assertive in all the areas that are treated as disputed.

They have been careful not to intrude into any area, which is either not disturbed or which by their very careful assessment does not fall within what they regard as their area," he said.

"But we don't realise why they should increase the frequency of their visits to the areas," Narayanan said.

He noted that the areas "they are visiting" were exactly the same as they have done over the years, but their frequency in the last year or so have gone up.

"We have not been able to fathom this, but once again I would take the views of the political leadership," he said, adding that the leadership of India and China were absolutely clear to maintain peace and tranquillity.

"Yes there will be instances of this kind. We haven't settled the border. It's not demarcated or delineated. There will always be a certain amount of discomfort. We are careful," he said.

"We don't wish to do something, which would aggravate the situation from either side," the NSA said. 

Narayanan also noted that the Indian Army has been making a "fair" amount of noise over the Chinese incursions.

"We are conscious of it. The instructions are that you cannot be complacent because you have to guard our border. From our side there will be no provocative action," he said.

The unresolved Sino-Indian boundary has issue has hampered the normal development of bilateral ties, with frequent reports of incursions, hurting the overall relations.

Unable to find a negotiated settlement through the diplomatic channels, India and China appointed special representatives in June 2003 to address the border issue from a political perspective of the overall bilateral relations.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963.

On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

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