India-China border issue among most complicated questions: Nirupama Rao

File photo of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.
File photo of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao today said the border issue between India and China was one of the most complicated boundary questions that existed anywhere in the world and asserted that both countries were determined to resolve it through dialogue.

"I can say it with all honesty, both governments are convinced that there is no other way to resolve this without dialogue. One has to resolve it through dialogue," she told public broadcaster All India Radio in an interview.

Ms Rao said there had to be a realistic view that there were differences between the two countries on their perception of the line of actual control (LOAC) in the border areas and also in terms of conflicting territorial claims.

"So this is a very complex issue. It is one of the most complicated boundary questions that exist anywhere in the world. But I think it is a good development and it is a positive factor that both countries are determined to resolve these issues," she said.

Referring to the recent media reports in India about incursions from across the border and also the Chinese statement on Arunachal Pradesh, Ms Rao said these developments had only intensified the need for the two sides to really sit down and resolve these issues with even more seriousess and determination.

"Because, I think, both governments understand that a peaceful relationship between India and China is not only good for the two countries but it is good for this region, it is good globally also," she observed.

Ms Rao, who was Ambassador to China before taking over as Foreign Secretary in August, said there were a number of issues on which the two countries could cooperate and were cooperating.

These included the Doha Development Round, climate change issues, cooperation in multilateral fora and reform of the international financial system in the weake of the global economic crisis.

"There are many many other issues in the relationship where we have common ground where there is a meeting of minds, so I think, we must look at this whole relationship in the larger perspective," she said.

About the Chinese statement last week protesting against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Ms Rao said the Government had taken it very seriously.

"Of course we take this seriously, and we have been very very particular and very clear and unambivalent in expressing our position to the Chinese. In that way we have said that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, it is an inalienable part of India," she said.

On the Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh next month, about which also the Chinese side has protested, Ms Rao said that he was a spiritual and religious figure who did not indulge in political activities on Indian soil. She said the Dalai Lama was a guest in India and free to visit any part of the country.

Ms Rao said India took a long-term perspective in its relations with China, its largest neighbour and with whom it shared a very long boundary.

"There are outstanding issues relating to this boundary which are yet to be resolved. And, therefore, the whole issue that you referred to and the Chinese protests that have been made should be seen in the context of the unresolved boundary question between the two countries. We are very intensively focused on this issue. But at the same time, one must understand that the relationship with China has also been developed in many other areas," she said.

She said the bilateral relationship had developed over the last two decades and there was today good communication and better understanding between the governments of the two countries and between their academic institutions and business and industry.

"As far as boundary between the two countries is concerned, there is still a lot of ground that we have to cover in terms of narrowing differences and building more understanding. But progress in this regard is being made, albeit slowly but it is being made surely. We have the mechanism of the special representatives appointed by the two governments to look into these issues and they have held thirteen rounds of discussions so far. So, as far as the boundary question is concerned, even as we have had these reports of protests and the incursions, one must understand also that there is a situation in which both our countries are placed at the moment and that situation is this focus on trying to resolve the boundary question peacefully," she said.

The Foreign Secretary said the Chinese Foreign Minsiter was due to visit India shortly for the trilateral meeting between India, China and Russia and it would afford New Delhi the opportunity to touch upon various issues of mutual concern and mutual interest in the bilateral relationship.

"It goes without saying that whenever we have the opportunity to meet between the two countries, as we would on this occasion, the opportunity does arise for us to raise all issues including issues of concern because it is through discussion, through frank discussion and through open discussion and through discussion at that level, we can remove misunderstandings," she explained.

The trilateral meeting would discuss ways of strengthening the dialogue between the three countries, which are major powers in the region, she said. It would look at issues such as energy security, better connectivity and dialogue between the academic institutions and think-tanks of the three countries.

On Pakistan, Ms Rao said that at the recent meetings in New York between the Foreign Secretaries and the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, India had made it clear that there could e any meaningful dialogue between them only if Pakistan addressed the threat of terrorism seriously and effectively.

She said India had always maintained that its relations with Pakistan could be normalised only through dialogue.

"It is very essential and we were communicating this to the Pakistani side on behalf of the Government of India and also on behalf of the people of India that the threat and the effect of terrorism which has been directed against the people of India from Pakistani soil by groups, by institutions, by individuals that operate with impunity from Pakistani soil, is the cause of utmost concern for us, because we have been victims of terrorism," she said.

She said that this was particularly so in the context of the investigations in Pakistan into the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.

"A little more than a month from now, it will be one year and in Pakistan the trial of those accused and also the investigation into Hafeez Sayed and still we have not had satisfaction on that as yet from the Pakistan side. And we continue to emphasise this to the Pakistani authorities that it is essential that they move resolutely and meaningfully and they take action against these individuals because it is only through that process that we will see an end to these problems," she remarked.

Ms Rao said that, despite the lack of concrete progress by Pakistan in these investigations, India must continue to emphasise its concerns to Islamabad because it was for the good of Pakistan also.

"You see the effect of terrorism in Pakistan also, so I think it is time that Pakistan understood the danger, the clear and present danger that exists from terrorism. We are the voice of sanity, the Indian Government and the Indian people, and I think Pakistan must come round to understanding the sincerity and the seriousness that we attach to this," she said.

In reply to another question, she said the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul last week and the attack in July last year had brought home to the countries in the region and the international community the threat and danger that existed from terrorism.

"The unhindered way in which terrorist groups have been allowed to operate in this region and we must understand that there is very very great urgent immediate need for the international community to be one on tackling this threat. And what has happened in Afghanistan, we are in Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan. Our development partnership with Afghanistan has won us hearts and minds in Afghanistan and there is no doubt about it," she said.

"I went to Afghanistan myself and had the opportunity to meet President Karzai, Foreign Minister and National Security Adviser, Dr. Rasool. All of them were unanimous in their appreciation of the role that India is playing in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people. We have no other agenda in Afghanistan, we are there to help," she said.

She said Pakistan must realise this and understand that India was in Afghanistan for legitimate reasons and to help the people of the strife-torn country.

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's state visit to Washington in November, Ms Rao said it would strengthen and consolidate the bilateral partnership.

"We have a global partnership with the United States. As President Obama said recently to our Prime Minister 'there are new well springs of cooperation in this relationship'.

She said that the two countries had, during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Delhi in July, announced a new dialogue architecture between the two countries that would cover not just strategic and security issues but also areas such as human development, agriculture, energy, gender empowerment, environment and education

"The visit of our Prime Minister to Washington will enable us to take this dialogue forward," she added.


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