File photo: Ram Madhav. Photograph:( ANI )
Ahead of the 21st round of India-China boundary talks, senior BJP leader Ram Madhav said today that a dispute over a “large segment” of the border with China has been resolved, barring the Western sector, and the negotiations were moving in the positive direction.
India and China have so far held 20 rounds of Special Representative-level talks to resolve the dispute over the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control. The next round of talks are due to be held between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the coming weeks. “The talks are moving in the positive direction,” BJP General Secretary Madhav, who is currently visiting China, told the Indian media here.
“It is not true. Most of the time those who are engaged in talks don’t disclose day-to-day progress. They want to achieve certain milestone then only they will disclose,” he added, refuting the perception that the border talks have not made much headway. “As far as I know, issues with large segments of our border have been resolved. There are few areas where negotiations are still going on,” he said.
Asked whether the understanding he referred to also applied to a section of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as part of South Tibet, Madhav said, “I cannot say anything on those things. But mostly the Western sector is where major issue is there. Some areas are yet to be delimited. That I think will continue in the 21st round. It is an inherited problem for us.” He also sounded positive about achieving a political consensus with the opposition parties if an agreement is reached between two countries. He played down differences over a report on Doklam prepared by the Standing Committee Parliament on External Affairs headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
“Until now we had bipartisan consensus on issues like border talks. As we move closer to elections in India every issue becomes a political issue,” he said, in an apparent reference to the committee’s report. “The report you are mentioning, that was not the spirit in which we used to handle the issue but having said it, there will be bipartisan consensus on these (border) negotiations,” he said, adding that it is not a problem initiated by the BJP. “We are continuing (the talks) and taking them forward,” he said. He also said the border talks mechanism is working.
“As far as I know, the mechanism is working. We had so many rounds of talks without any complaints from either side. Things are moving, generally in the positive direction. I don’t know of any other plans,” he said. On Doklam, he insisted that the status quo prevailed at the standoff site which is being maintained by all three parties- China, India and Bhutan. The 73-day standoff last year began when Chinese troops tried to construct a road close to India’s border. Indian troops objected to the road in the territory claimed by Bhutan as it came close to the Indian highway. The standoff ended in late August after both sides agreed to disengage. There is “no change in the status quo. What existed earlier, exists today,” Madhav said.
India’s main issue in the area is with respect to the tri-junction because it has been agreed earlier that it should not be moved, he said. Referring to reports of build up by the Chinese troops in areas close to the standoff site, he said, “what a country does on its side is its prerogative. How can we comment on it? Right now, status quo is being maintained there”.
“When Doklam happened the policy adopted by our government was proactive diplomacy together with strong positioning (on the ground). This combination has helped in achieving good results on Doklam issue,” he said. “Our position with regard to border and trade deficit with China is clear and strong position. To address these issue, proactive diplomacy is the best way,” he added. “As far as the government position is concerned, the status quo which we wanted to be maintained there when Doklam dispute happened is being maintained by all the three sides,” he added.
On the ballooning trade deficit which touched last year about USD 51 billion in over USD 84 billion bilateral trade, Madhav said, “definitely there is conscious efforts (being made) by both the governments to bridge the gap”. “I am sure in the coming days we will be able to improve the situation. Today it is USD 51 billion. Even if we bring down by USD 20 or 30 billion it is a major achievement,” he said.
On the first informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan, he said, “the Wuhan spirit is a new phrase between the two countries. Not formal but strongly informal relationship between the two countries. Both the countries should continue the spirit.” He said Prime Minister Modi and President Xi now enjoy personal bond and relationship. “That helps. Understanding between the leaders is always helpful in overcoming differences,” he said.
“Other neighbours are telling they are very happy that the two countries are having good ties at summit level,” the BJP leader said. On China stepping up ties with India’s neighbours, Madhav said India has very good relations with Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
“Maldives is a persisting problem for a couple of years. (We’re) Trying to sort it out,” he added. He said both India and China should step up people-to-people contacts. Madhav said the ties between the BJP and the ruling Communist Party of China are improving and such relationship helps to sort out difficult issues between the two countries.