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Political will needed to tackle border issue, says China
Amar Chandel writes from Beijing

China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang has said that his country attaches great importance to the forthcoming third round of border talks between special representatives of India and China to be held in Delhi although it knows that settling the border question won’t be smooth.

At a meeting with the visiting Indian journalists in Beijing, the minister said the new Indian government had indicated that it was willing to further promote the process of talks.

The Chinese government is ready to see that the two governments have the political will to push forward the negotiations on the border question, he said.

The atmosphere during the previous two rounds had been “very good” and they have had in-depth discussion on matters of principles. The minister expressed the belief that during the third round of talks, the special representatives will have in-depth exchange of views on these guiding principles. “However, the process of settling the border question won’t be smooth and we expect specific problems”.

He hoped that the border areas would become areas of peace and tranquillity. China, he underlined, had properly settled the border question with nearly all neighbouring countries and expressed the confidence of settling the border question with India as well.

“The upcoming visit by Vice-Minister Dai Bingguo will inject new vitality into the process of negotiations and settlement of the border issue between India and China. In his capacity as special representative, Mr Dai will meet other government officials and discuss with them the general picture of Sino-Indian relations. We hope that the two special representatives will maintain the momentum of contacts and engagements,” he said.

The minister expressed his willingness to expand border trade and even reopen consulates in each other’s country lying closed for many decades.

Mr Shen Guopheng, who has earlier been a spokesman for the ministry, said China wanted better relations with SAARC and was ready to discuss this issue with India.

On Iraq, his stand was that the ultimate solution lies with the Iraqi people. They should govern their own country. A Chinese task force is in Iraq to study the opening of the Chinese embassy there.

On terrorism, India and China have a convergence of views and there should be greater information sharing. But the minister was evasive about China’s support for India’s quest for a permanent Security Council seat. This was a very complicated issue and required repeated consultations. He respected India’s desire to play a greater role in the UN but pointed out that China had never supported the effort of any country.

Perhaps to put this issue aside, he veered the discussion away to people-to-people contact between the 2.3 billion citizens of these two great countries and regretted that the contacts between them were modest. Instead of rivals, the two should see each other as very good partners as there was convergence on many issues like role of the UN, terrorism etc.

In a similar vein he said India, China and Russia should cooperate to a greater extent. Their Foreign Ministers and deputies should consult and brief one another on matters of mutual interest. That would help in maintaining international peace.

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