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Sunday, August 17, 2008

India, China committed to peace 12 Aug 2008

India, China committed to peace
They won't provoke each other over disputed border, says Indian adviser
By Ravi Velloor, India Bureau Chief

ST

NEW DELHI: China may be increasingly assertive along sections of its disputed border with India, but both sides are committed to maintaining peace and will not provoke the other, said India's National Security Adviser.
New Delhi also expects to receive Beijing's support when the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meets soon to discuss lifting sanctions on India that would allow it to enter the global trade in nuclear equipment.

'The Chinese have been a little more assertive in all the areas that are treated as disputed,' said Mr M.K. Narayanan. 'They have been careful not to intrude into any area which, by their very careful assessment, does not fall within what they regard as their area.'

India's army and paramilitary have been complaining of frequent incursions and aggressive behaviour by Chinese troops along several sections of their undemarcated mutual border, over which they fought a brief border war in 1962.

Bilateral ties have, in general, warmed since a landmark visit to China by the late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, and bilateral trade now tops US$40 billion (S$56 billion) annually.

The two sides have held several rounds of border negotiations, led by Mr Narayanan for India and Mr Dai Bingguo, now a State Councillor, on China's side.

But mutual suspicions remain and some think India's growing closeness to Washington is partly aimed at countering Beijing.

Mr Narayanan said the border talks, on hold for six months, would resume next month.

While areas of convergence were increasing, the dispute over Tawang, a Buddhist enclave in Arunachal Pradesh state, remains a key outstanding issue.

China's insistence on Tawang flies in the face of an agreement that areas with settled populations on either side are 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),' said Mr Narayanan. Nevertheless, both sides are committed to maintaining peace along the border, he insisted.

He added that India expected to receive Chinese backing when the 44-nation NSG meets to discuss a special sanctions waiver for India.

'At every meeting President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, they have indicated that they will not be a problem,' he said. And it was the same message when the Chinese leaders called to congratulate Dr Singh on his confidence vote win last month in the Indian Parliament.

China took a 'very correct position' when the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a special safeguards regime for India last month, he pointed out.

Within the NSG itself, he said '95 per cent' had accepted the Indian argument that India needed the waiver to access clean energy at affordable prices.

velloor@sph.com.sg

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