China and India are sitting down for another round of talks this week on their unsettled border, a nearly 50-year festering row that in recent months seems to have gotten worse.
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan are unlikely to announce any agreement on the 3,500 km border, even a small one, but their talks this week may well signal how they intend to move forward on a relationship marked by a deep, deep “trust deficit”, as former Indian intelligence chief B. Raman puts it.
While the entire Himalayan border is disputed, including the Aksai Chin area, it is the row over large parts of India’s Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern stretch of the mountains that has strained ties in recent months.
The Chinese, says Raman, are demanding that at least the Tawang tract of Arunachal Pradesh, if not the whole of it, should be transferred to it. They are apparently adamant that if that doesn’t happen, there won’t be any border settlement, he says.
India’s position is that there can’t be a transfer of populated areas in any border settlement. Tawang is a populated area, its citizens are Indians, New Delhi says.