China and India agree new border management initiative
(18 January 2012)
At the conclusion of the fifteenth round of negotiations concerning their disputed boundary, China and India have agreed to establish a new working mechanism for border management. The agreement was signed by China's Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar and witnessed by India's national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and China's state councillor Dai Bingguo who are the appointed special representatives leading boundary negotiations. The text of the agreement has not been released but reports indicate that the working mechanism will create a permanent channel to communicate any local transgressions or incidents to the respective foreign ministries. This mechanism explicitly avoids any discussion of boundary definition which remains under negotiation by the two national governments. The two sides have significantly different territorial claims, particularly in the Arunachal Pradesh area at the eastern section of the boundary. The disputed boundary claims sparked a brief conflict between China and India in 1962. Since that time there have been frequent claims of forces transgressing the de facto ‘line of control’ that is observed until the boundary can be agreed and defined in full. Dating back to colonial-era descriptions, most of the disputed and observed boundary is unmarked on the ground which makes it vulnerable to confusion and claims of incursion at the local level.
Previously, China and India have agreed other border management arrangements to avoid further conflict, but only serious cross border tensions or claims of incursion have engaged the respective foreign ministries. It is hoped this new mechanism will allow even localised claims of border transgressions to be addressed quickly by the two administrations before such tensions can accelerate. Some reports suggest that the working mechanism will establish a direct link between a joint secretary in India's foreign ministry Gautam Bambawale and the director general of China's department of boundary affairs Deng Zhonghua who will lead the new initiative.
Sources: ‘India, China sign pact on border dispute’ Nirmala Ganapathy (India Correspondent), Straits Times, 18 January 2012; ‘India, China sign pact to set up border management mechanism’ Mint, 18 January 2012; ‘China, India sign pact on border issues’ Xinhua, 18 January 2012.