Beijing: China on Friday said it is ready to "break new ground" with India to resolve the boundary dispute as their Special Representatives discussed the proposed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) against the backdrop of the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh.
Meeting for the first time after the May incident, Special Representatives of India and China today held the 16th round of boundary negotiations looking to accelerate settlement of the vexed dispute.
National Security Advisor and India`s designated Special Representative (SR) Shivshankar Menon held the first round of the two day talks with his new Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in a "cordial and friendly atmosphere".
"I stand ready to work with you to build on the work of our predecessors and break new ground to strive for the settlement of the China-India boundary question and to make greater progress in the China India strategic an cooperative partnership in the new period," newly appointed Chinese Special Representative Yang Jiechi said here.
Providing a broader perspective of talks, Menon, an old China hand by virtue of his long diplomatic association in dealing with Sino-India relations, said the talks focussed on strengthening mechanism to keep peace and tranquillity at the border in the back drop of the incursion by Chinese soldiers that sparked off major diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Stating that BDCA would be discussed further during the next week`s visit Defence Minister, AK Antony here, (July 4 to 7), Menon said "slowly we are strengthening this edifice of both the dialogue mechanisms and the edifice of consultations and the mechanisms we have in place".
He said both sides exchanged views on the BDCA. "They have come back to us recently with their ideas. There was a broad measure of agreement but we still have to do a little bit of work on text itself. I am sure they will discuss it when Defence Minister comes here next week", he said.
Speaking to the Indian media after first round of talks, he said both sides today discussed the "settlement of boundary and peace and tranquillity, how to strengthen mechanisms".
Menon said the basic trajectory of relationship is good.
"It is positive, it has been steady for years actually. Secondly, we have managed to maintain peace and tranquillity and have made progress towards a boundary settlement", he said.
"We are making progress steadily. I think the proof is in the successful way we handled Depsang, and in the way we are discussing a new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement" (BDCA), which was proposed by the China to better manage the situation at the border.
The BDCA aims to set up mechanisms which will provide for consultations for communication between us so that we can improve management of border, he said.
Menon also met Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi.
Menon said that the border talks were being held after the March meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in March during which both agreed that it was necessary to accelerate the process of the settlement.
"After that we had the incident in Depsang as well. We were able to successfully handle that, to deal with that and restore status quo as it had been before tents were pitched", he said stating that the issue figured in the talks today.
He said that after Premier Li visited India, the SRs were tasked to look at strengthening mechanisms for peace and tranquillity at the border.
Drawing parallels between Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, he said that despite elaborate agreements on LOC, that part of the border remained disturbed with firing and crossing by militants to carry out attacks in India, where as despite differences and ambiguities, LAC remained by and large peaceful.
"Mechanisms have worked for peace and tranquillity. If you look at it, since the 1993 border peace and tranquillity agreement, 1996 CBMS, in 2006 etc, the standard operating procedures, basically border regions have been peaceful.
"Both sides have respected that there is a status quo. But they are areas where we have overlapping ideas of where LAC is", he said.
"Those are the areas where there is always a risk. We have managed them well. Under standard operating procedures both sides have shown restraint, both sides have dealt with it diplomatically, but it is clear we want to ensure that it doesn`t happen", he said.
On the SRs mechanism, Menon said "right at beginning SRs agreed on three stage process. Principles part was done by 2005. We have been discussing framework in various ways, this is most complex" as it will actually translate into the settlement.
"At one stage people were wondering if this process is going anywhere. It has literally been 10 years since it was started. I will continue discussions with Yang Jiechi tomorrow.
"We are still in the middle of the process. The SRs now do four things: original task boundary settlement, doing peace and tranquillity because it is linked. Over time we have also discussed the political relationship in particular on various issue and normally done a strategic review. All that we will do tomorrow and we will see where we are," he said.
He said this round acquired significance partly because President Xi remarks and the task given during Li`s visit besides a new SR (Yang Jeichi) on China`s side.
Yang succeeded, Dai Bingguo, who was China`s point man for India for over a decade.
Today`s talks were productive, constructive and it was very forward looking, he said.
Asked whether BDCA would affect infrastructure development on the Indian side, he said "both sides are developing infrastructure, both sides are bringing whatever they can to their own people on their own side of the LAC that process is going on by both sides", he said.
"What we have in place is a set of mechanisms, a way of dealing with situations which I think has worked and it has proved it has worked over all these days", he said adding that only death at the India-China border took place way back in 1975 when an Indian soldier was lost due to fog.
"I don`t think there are many borders you can say that about", he said.