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Ahead of President Xi's trip: India for special envoy to China

Former NSA Shyam Saran and NSA Ajit Doval likely choices

Nayanima Basu 

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India next week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce a special representative to China. The representative will be entrusted with all border-related matters, especially those related to a resolution on clarifying and delineating the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Special representatives, who act as the prime minister’s envoy to a particular country, are usually more empowered than ambassadors. So far, the role of special envoy to China was being played by former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon.

Sources say Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary and chairman of the National Security Advisory Board and Research and Information Systems in Developing Countries, is considered frontrunner for the post. Some say National Security Advisor Ajit Doval might be given the additional responsibility of the PM’s special envoy to China.

Doval, who was in China earlier this week, said bilateral and strategic ties were poised for an “orbital jump”.

Senior officials say the government wants to be firm with its Chinese counterpart and resolve the border dispute, once and for all.

It is expected a substantial outcome on the border issues will be reflected in a joint statement to be issued after a meeting between Modi and Xi here on September 18. “Border management cooperation will be on the agenda. During the visit, both sides might agree upon the LAC issue; only then can the possibility of intrusions be resolved,” said Saran.

He added both sides should also seek an early agreement on rivers flowing on both sides of the border, as currently, there was lack of information and not much cooperation on this issue.

So far, the special representatives of India and China have held 17 rounds of talks on the border issue. The last round, between Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Secretary Yang Jiechi, was held in February.

Rajiv Kumar, senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, said while China had amicably resolved border disputes with all its neighbours, it hadn’t done so with India, as India had given sanctuary to Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in 1959. “The new special representative has to be given a clear mandate and a stipulated timeframe for resolving the border issue. Only then can the appointment of a new special representative be justified,” he said.

China should behold its new status and resolve the border issue with India, as much water has flown since 1958,” he said.

Recently, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said if China wanted India to recognise Tibet and Taiwan belonged to China, it should recognise Arunachal Pradesh was a part of India.

During Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May last year, both sides had decided to sign a border defence cooperation agreement to resolve the issue in a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable” manner. Subsequently, an agreement was signed to maintain “peace and tranquillity in border areas” till the time the border dispute was resolved.

Recently, however, a series of ceasefire violations have come to light. Earlier this month, Chinese troops had reportedly crossed the LAC into Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir.

Shyam Saran’s views on India-China relationship
  • For the first time since 2005 India will have a relatively strong hand to play with in giving a new direction to what has been a complex and often difficult relationship ...

  • India is also emerging as a major economic opportunity for China.... (and) can provide a market of the scale that China needs ....

  • China is more sensitive to Indian concerns when India has strong and diversified relations with other major powers. Its pressures on India mount when India is seen to have fewer options
Source: Business Standard article

First Published: Fri, September 12 2014. 00:44 IST