National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will visit China next week to hold informal talks with his Chinese counterpart to discuss the vexed border dispute and other strategic issues, it was announced on Thursday.
Doval, who is also the Special Representative for Sino-India boundary talks, will hold informal dialogue with his Chinese counterpart and state councillor Yang Jiechi on January 5, 2016 during which both officials would review the progress made on the border issue, Chinese officials said.
During his visit to Beijing, Doval would also call on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on January 6.
India and China have so far held 18 round of talks to resolve the dispute along the 3488 km-long border. Besides the annual dialogue on the border, the Special Representatives also meet informally to review the progress and discuss a host of strategic issues concerning bilateral relations including issues related to the neighbourhood.
The developments come as China seeks to deepen its engagement with countries in South Asia, which in turn has raised concerns in India.
For its part, China says the border dispute is concerned only to the Eastern sector specially Arunachal Pradesh which it claims as part of southern Tibet, while India asserts that the dispute includes the Western sector, specially the area occupied by China in the 1962 war.
Since he took over as NSA, Doval has visited Beijing twice and taken part in the 18th round of border talks held in New Delhi in 2015.
He visited China in September 2014 for talks ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India. Later, the NSA was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s delegation which visited China earlier in 2015.
Besides the complex border talks, both sides also focussed their dialogue more on frequent “incursions” by the Chinese troops specially in the Ladakh sector, which caused tensions at the borders.
Two of such incursions happened during the visit of Li to India in 2013 and Xi in 2014. On both the occasions, the prolonged standoffs were resolved with hectic parlays at high levels.
China, for its part, maintains that the problem arises due to different perceptions of the border.
While the two sides held the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination which focussed on the issue of incursions, the issue also figured in the talks during the visits of Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission General Fan Changlong’s visit to India as well as the recent China visit of India’s Northern Commander Lt General DS Hooda.
Both sides opened more border points to improve contacts between the troops along the Line Of Actual Control (LAC).
Earlier in July, Doval said settlement of the border issue is “critical” for India-China ties and called for a “larger plan” for “tackling” that country to resolve all ticklish matters.
Speaking at a lecture in New Delhi, Doval had said while the relations with China are looking up “we are particularly concerned about the Eastern sector where the claims have been made on Tawang (in Arunachal Pradesh) which is totally in contravention of accepted principles.”
He also expressed surprise that while McMahon line was agreed till Burma (Myanmar) by China, the same was not accepted thereafter.
The line is named after Sir Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of the British-run Indian government and the chief negotiator of settling disputes with China in 1914.
“We have got a very long border, we have got 3,488-km long border, a very difficult and mountainous terrain snow-clad…now for the bilateral relations with China, border is the critical and vital issue,” Doval said.
Responding to Doval’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry, spokesperson, Hua Chunying had said “the Chinese government does not recognise ‘the McMahon Line’ which is illegal”.
“The Chinese side is ready to work with the Indian side to resolve the boundary question through friendly consultation at an early date and create more favourable conditions for the development of the bilateral relations,” she said.