India-China row: Strategic and economic dialogues have taken precedence over border talks

While India and China still remain mired in the ongoing border dispute in Sikkim, Beijing has, repeatedly, fired warnings at New Delhi to not harbour any illusions about the Chinese military's ability to defend its territory.

Comments from the Chinese defence ministry came three days before National Security Advisory Ajit Doval is scheduled to visit China on 27 and 28 July for the BRICS NSA meeting. China on Tuesday hinted that a bilateral meeting between Doval and his Chinese counterpart State Councillor Yang Jiechi could take place on the sidelines of the summit. However, the meeting is still in the realm of speculation.

 India-China row: Strategic and economic dialogues have taken precedence over border talks

Ajit Doval meeting China's president Xi Jinping. Reuters

Over the years, the two countries have developed dialogues in areas as diverse as politics, economics, regional and international affairs, and culture. There are about 30 different dialogue mechanisms between the two countries. Since the advent of the 21st century, economic relations and mutual co-operation in various sectors helped bring an upward swing in the bilateral ties, relegating border talks to a sideshow.

NSAs BRICS summit is not one of the officially-recognised dialogue mechanism.

Special Representatives Meeting on the India-China Boundary Question (SRM)

One of them is the Special Representatives Meeting on the India-China Boundary Question (SRM). Notably, Doval and Yang are the Special Representatives to the meeting. The SRM was formed after the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China in 2003.

As the name suggests, the mechanism was established to revitlaise talks over the border dispute along the McMahon Line. However, The Diplomat report stated that after the signing of the 2005 Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement, the mechanism stalled as the two countries refused to budge from their point of view.

The last SRM took place in 2016, when both countries agreed to continue the negotiation on the border dispute.

"Both sides agreed that the negotiation on India-China boundary maintains a positive momentum, with boundary disputes effectively controlled and boundary regions generally peaceful and stable," the statement read.

"Starting from the big picture of long-term development of bilateral relations, both sides will, with the positive attitude of mutual respect and understanding and on the basis of existing results from negotiations, stay on the track of political settlement, stick to peaceful negotiations to resolve the boundary question, meet each other halfway and continue to promote the process of framework negotiation so as to strive for a fair and reasonable solution that both sides accept," the statement added.

If the border SRM is proving to be a dampener, then there is India-China Strategic Dialogue.

India-China Strategic Dialogue

In 2017, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar visited China for the India-China Strategic Dialogue. During his visit, foreign secretary called on Yang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. During these meetings, the two sides held in-depth discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest and concern.

The Strategic Dialogue was preceded by senior official level dialogues between India and China covering issues of Afghanistan, multilateral diplomacy including counter-terrorism, nuclear issues as well as bilateral relations.

The Strategic Dialogue was established in 2005. However, experts believe there is no real strategic convergence between the two Asian rivals. An editorial in Livemint noted that the strategic dialogue revolves more or less around the border issue as well as trade and economic ties.

Mechanism of India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED)

India and China have a bilateral trade of $70.4 billion (as of 2015). This statistic is the testimony to the fact that economic ties have taken precedence over border issues.

The Mechanism of India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) was established in December 2010. The previous three meetings of the SED were successfully held in September 2011, November 2012, and March 2014. The five working groups of the SED cover the fields of infrastructure, energy, environment, new and renewable energy and high technology cooperation.

The official statement of the fourth edition of the meeting in October 2016 read:

The two sides exchanged views on global economic trends and the macro-economic situation of both countries and held in-depth discussions on enhancing bilateral co-operation. In view of the uncertainties characterising global economic recovery, the two sides concluded that dialogue and communication can serve as powerful instruments of development and prosperity in India and China. Moreover, the countries agreed that cooperation between the them would help promote regional and global growth.

High Level Dialogue Mechanism on Counter Terrorism and Security

India and China established a High Level Dialogue Mechanism on Counter Terrorism and Security, led by RN Ravi, Chairman and Wang Yongqing, Secretary General of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of China. The first meeting of the mechanism was held in Beijing in September 2016.

"The two sides had in-depth discussions on enhancing cooperation in counter-terrorism, security and on measures to jointly deal with security threats and reached important consensus in this regard," said an Indian government official.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jul 25, 2017 14:54:43 IST