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Despite Talks, No End in Sight for Indo-Chinese Border Dispute

Jul. 18, 2013 - 11:24AM   |  
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NEW DELHI — Even as India and China hold talks to resolve their boundary dispute, analysts here said Beijing will keep the issue from being solved as it looks to gain leverage while pursuing expansion in the region.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony discussed the issue with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chang Wanquan, during Antony’s official visit to Beijing July 4-7. The goal is to create a formal mechanism to improve security at the border pending the final settlement of the territorial dispute between the two countries, an official with the Indian Defence Ministry said.

China claims 92,000 square kilometers of territory India considers its own, and the border between the two countries is defined by a 4,056-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is marked neither on the ground nor on agreed-upon maps.

Both countries have been building infrastructure and acquiring weapons and equipment along their borders.

Sources in the MoD said China has moved new long-range missiles closer to the border with India and has contingency plans ready to shift airborne forces at short notice to the region.

The issue of China’s militarization was also discussed during talks between the two defense ministers, said the source, who gave no further details.

The joint statement at the end of Antony’s visit, issued by the Indian MoD, said peace along the border is “an important guarantor for the growth and development of bilateral cooperation.”

“The ministers emphasized the importance of enhancing mutual trust and understanding between the two militaries,” the statement said. “They reviewed the working of agreements and protocols dealing with the maintenance of peace and tranquility and directed that it be further strengthened. Appreciating that border defense cooperation would make a significant contribution in this regard, they agreed on an early conclusion of negotiations for the Border Defence Cooperation agreement between the two governments.”

Despite the ongoing diplomatic initiative, analysts and senior MoD officials agree the boundary dispute won’t be resolved soon.

“It appears that China has not really made up its mind on resolution of the border dispute, seen from the lack of progress after 16 rounds of discussions between special representatives,” said Arun Sahgal, director of The Forum Strategic Initiative think tank. “[China] is, however, concerned by the fact that India is rising out of its stupor and has started taking steps to upgrade both infrastructure and defense capability. Beijing will keep the boundary line delineation issue hanging till such time it sees as a positive leverage.”

Even as India prepares for a potential battle with China, the possibility of anything happening in the near future appears remote, analysts said.

“India and China are both strategically unprepared for war. The two Asian giants are presently on the catch-up curve from developing to developed countries,” defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle said. “The overall national strategies appear to be to maintain the status quo till comprehensive national power reaches a level where surplus can be invested in war making. This stage may be decades away.”

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