Nuclear accord clouds border talks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 12:00am


Efforts to resolve Sino-Indian territorial dispute may take a back seat to Delhi's ties with Washington

Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister Dai Bingguo arrived in New Delhi yesterday for the seventh round of high-level talks to resolve the festering border dispute between India and China.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the four-day talks between the two sides, led by Mr Dai and Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan would be held in the capital before shifting to the Kumarakom resort in the southern state of Kerala.

Indian officials said they would also use the opportunity to brief the Chinese delegation about the controversial India-US nuclear deal signed last week during President George W. Bush's visit to India.

Beijing has criticised the deal that will legitimise India's nuclear status if it is approved by the United States' Congress and Senate.

Mr Dai is the first senior Chinese official to visit India since Mr Bush's landmark trip to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

'The two sides are likely to spend more time and energy dissecting the nuclear deal than trying to resolve the territorial dispute,' said a western diplomat.

Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to visit Beijing later this month to reassure the Chinese leadership that New Delhi's growing relationship with Washington is not directed against China.

China and India have designated 2006 as the Year of Friendship. Two months ago, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran visited Beijing and Shanghai for a strategic dialogue and discussed various bilateral issues.

Commenting on Mr Dai's visit, C. Raja Mohan, a leading strategic affairs expert, said: 'New Delhi has every right to point out that Beijing's opposition to the nuclear pact could have unpredictable consequences for Sino-Indian relations, which have entered their best-ever phase in the past 60 years.'

A statement on the boundary talks released by the Chinese embassy yesterday said 'as long as the two sides proceed forward and conduct patient, thorough and friendly consultations in the spirit of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation, we can find a fair and reasonable framework acceptable to both sides for the final settlement of the boundary issue'.

China claims about 90,000 sqkm in India's northeast, including most of Arunachal Pradesh. India claims about 33,000 sqkm in the Aksai Chin region, bordering Jammu and Kashmir.

The nuclear neighbours have still not demarcated a border since the 1962 war, with the post-conflict Line of Actual Control identifying their respective territories.