China and India Agree on Border Dispute Protocol

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Bangladesh & Myanmar trade corridor between China & India also discussed

Oct. 24 – China and India have agreed that in the event of any conflict along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) they will not revert to using force or threats, and will actively seek to prevent any form of armed conflict or unnecessary escalation. With border disputes high on the agenda on the meetings taking place between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday, China and India have signed off on new confidence building measures contained in the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement (BDCA). This was one of nine agreements signed by both sides, including a memorandum of understanding on Strengthening Co-operation on Trans-border Rivers.

According to Premier Li, the BDCA “would help maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas… the two governments have the ability to manage differences along the border so that it won’t affect overall interests of our bilateral relations.”

PM Singh noted that the BDCA would “add to the existing instruments to ensure peace, stability and predictability” on the border issue.

“We agreed that peace and tranquility on our borders must be the foundation for growth in the India-China relationship, even as we move forward the negotiations towards a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement to the India-China boundary question. This will be our strategic benchmark,” Singh further commented.

The BDCA further seeks to implement a graded mechanism, whereby there will be frequent meetings between border personnel from both nations and between officers of the regional military headquarters. Furthermore, high-level meetings between the two ministries of defense will occur, in conjunction with the mechanism for coordination on India-China Border Affairs and the India-China Annual Defense Dialogue.

Both sides have also agreed that when there is no clear understanding of where the LAC lies, patrols in the area will not tail each other and will instead seek clarification through regular meetings as well as telecommunication links. Perhaps most important, when the two sides come face-to-face along the border where it is unclear where the LAC lies, “both sides shall exercise maximum self-restraint, refrain from any provocative actions, not use force or threaten to use force against the other side, treat each other with courtesy and prevent exchange of armed conflict.”

During the meetings, both China and India also recognized regional concerns over the potential for conflict, with PM Singh stating that “as large neighbors following independent foreign policies, the relationships pursued by India and China with other countries must not become a source of concern for each other. This will be our strategic reassurance.”

With this statement PM Singh was making a clear reference to China’s strategic relationship with Pakistan, while China is mainly concerned with India’s strategic ties with the United States. During the meeting between the two nuclear-armed giants, India also raised the issue of terrorism originating from Pakistan, China’s continued infrastructure development within Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as well as concerns regarding China’s issuance of stapled visas to people from Arunachal Pradesh.

On the economic front, China has further pushed for a Bangladesh-Myanmar-India-China economic corridor as well as an industrial park in India.

“This particular diplomatic breakthrough clears away a lot of dead wood and allows both nations to move more closely together in terms of developing bilateral trade,” comments Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates. “There are some exciting developments ahead and the India-China trade corridor looks as if it will continue to grow and develop at a fast pace.”

India-China bilateral trade hit US$66.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach US$100 billion in two years.

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