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Sino-Indian special talks cancelled
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 12
The Sino-Indian special representatives-level talks between National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo have been cancelled, sources told this correspondent today.

The development signifies that relations between the two Asian giants and most populous countries on earth are not as rosy as the bilateral annual trade figures of over $ 20 billion suggest.

The talks have been cancelled at the Indiaís behest. Originally, it was New Delhiís idea to have these talks ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintaoís India visit scheduled for November 20-22.

The two sides had even considered to hold the talks here on November 9. However, India was left with no option but to scrap the idea altogether after the Chinese adopted a rather hard-line approach.

This correspondent understands that the boundary dispute between India and China will not figure during the upcoming India visit of Mr Hu. In view of this, his visit will not be substantive. In fact, Mr Huís India visit is going to be very different from the landmark visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to India in April.

It is essentially the Chinese idea that border dispute should not come up for any meaningful discussion during Mr Huís visit. He is Chinaís topmost political leader who wears three hats as the Chinese Communist Partyís President as well as General Secretary and Chairman of the very powerful Chinese Military Commission.

Chinese diplomacy is not unlike the ancient art of reading the tea leaves. The Chinese establishment is known to work by dropping diplomatic symbolisms. The worrying diplomatic symbolism emanating from Beijing currently is that all is not well in the state of Sino-India relations.

The Chinese have not taken very kindly to Indiaís rapidly thickening ties with the United States. Beijing looks at Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation as a red rag. China has effectively conveyed its stance on the matter by its counterbalancing act of offering a similar nuclear deal to Pakistan. It is not without significance that Mr Hu leaves Indian shores on November 23 for Islamabad where he is all set to ink a nuclear pact with Pakistan.

To understand Chinese diplomatic moves, it is pertinent to look at what is being not said and not done, rather than what is being said or done. By not having Sino-India boundary dispute on the talks table, the Chinese have conveyed their displeasure.

On the other hand, when Mr Hu embarks on his Pakistan visit on November 23, he will sign a large number of bilateral documents, including selling six or eight nuclear reactors to Islamabad.

One specific issue that is going to come up during Mr Huís talks with the Indian leadership is the opening of Chinese Consulate in Kolkata. The Chinese have been pressing New Delhi hard for the consulate. However, an influential section of the Indian strategic establishment is opposed to the move on the ground that this will make Indiaís east and north-east vulnerable to a systematic espionage from the Chinese.

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