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China-India ties finally on the move after freeze

HDN | 6/29/2003 12:00:00 AM |

Indian analysts say Vajpayee has been hoping for help from China, a long-time friend of Pakistan, in efforts to forge peace between New Delhi and Islamabad The first visit by an Indian prime minister to China in a decade produced a spate of agreements

  • Indian analysts say Vajpayee has been hoping for help from China, a long-time friend of Pakistan, in efforts to forge peace between New Delhi and Islamabad
  • The first visit by an Indian prime minister to China in a decade produced a spate of agreements and flourishes of rhetoric, but no major breakthrough in ties between the suspicious neighbors, analysts said.

    The visit by Atal Behari Vajpayee did not, one New Delhi-based Indian analyst said in midweek, "change the underlying dynamics of the India-China relationship."

    Nevertheless, with both making concessions on contentious border issues and moving towards greater trade between countries which are home to one-third of the world's people, a long-frozen relationship is now on the move, they said.

    India, for the first time, accepted in writing that Tibet was part of China, an issue dear to Beijing. China agreed to open trade through disputed Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan state annexed by New Delhi in 1975.

    And while Beijing insisted that did not mean acceptance of Indian sovereignty over Sikkim, Chinese analyst Sun Shihai called it "indirect" recognition.

    These were small but significant advances for two countries which fought a brief border war in 1962, leaving ties in tatters for decades until the territorial disputes were effectively put on one side in the late 1980s.

    That reduced tension along the 3,500 km (2,175 mile) border which runs the length of the Himalayas through some of the world's most inhospitable land.

    Now, one of the agreements signed in Beijing appoints special envoys to sort out the border mess, both of them powerful figures in their governments.

    "We will go beyond a peaceful and tranquil border to a step further: a border where there can be trade and tourism," said foreign policy analyst G. Parthasarathy, a former senior Indian diplomat.

    Trade door opens

    Indian businessmen, who have only recently started to examine China's booming market, would be thrilled, said T.K. Bhaumik, economic adviser to the Confederation of Indian Industry.

    "It is a significant breakthrough economically as well as politically," he said. "It is great encouragement for Indian companies investing in China and a great confidence booster."

    Even so, analysts on both sides said no one should get carried away.

    Lack of mutual trust still existed and "is an obstacle to the healthy development of China-Indian relations," said Sun, a South Asia expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

    "It is impossible for the two countries to establish total mutual trust through just one visit," Sun said.

    Parthasarathy added: "We should not get carried away by the hype surrounding this visit.

    "We have to see if the Chinese are now more responsible on the issue of nuclear and missile proliferation," he said, referring to Indian charges of Chinese help to the nuclear arms program of arch-foe Pakistan. Beijing denies those accusations.

    Indian analysts said Vajpayee had been hoping for help from China, a long-time friend of Pakistan, in efforts to forge peace between New Delhi and Islamabad.

    But while China has moved away from uncritical backing of Islamabad, whose President Pervez Musharraf met U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday, "China will not abandon Pakistan because it is developing relations with India," Sun said.

    Shanghai - Reuters

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