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"Guiding principles" on border issue finalised

Monday 11 April 2005, by BARUAH*Amit

NEW DELHI, APRIL 10. India and China have clinched a set of "guiding principles" on how to address their border dispute following a meeting between Special Representatives, M.K. Narayanan and Dai Bingguo, at the Prime Minister’s Office today.

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FIRMING UP TIES: External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh welcoming Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the Palam Airport in New Delhi on Sunday.

The Chinese side is expected to present to India a newly printed official map that shows Sikkim as a part of India. It is likely that this map will be presented during talks between the visiting Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, on Monday, South Block sources told The Hindu tonight.

The "guiding principles," which have been under negotiation for several months, were given finishing touches at the first-ever meeting between Mr. Narayanan and Mr. Dai, the sources said. It is understood that one of these principles contains a formulation to the effect that existing populations would be "protected."

The agreement on the "guiding principles" came as Mr. Wen arrived in the capital from Bangalore. The External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, received him at the airport. Later in the evening, the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, called on Mr. Wen at the Taj Palace Hotel.

The sources said there had been much opening and re-opening of the "guiding principles," but it had now been finally settled and would be issued by the two Prime Ministers tomorrow. They felt that it would be a "major step" in the direction of a final boundary settlement.

Three-tier arrangement

India’s concerns have been taken care of in the principles, which will be part of a three-tier arrangement to settle the border dispute: the principles, a framework for the settlement and then the actual delineation and demarcation of the border.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesman put out a brief response after the talks between Mr. Narayanan and Mr. Dai: "The Special Representatives met today and had fruitful talks with a view to finalising the documents on guiding principles for signatures tomorrow."

The spokesman also regretted an incident during Mr. Wen’s visit to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. "This is an unfortunate incident. The miscreant has been promptly apprehended and the State Government of Karnataka is conducting an investigation. Premier Wen Jiabao is an honoured guest of this country and all efforts are being made to ensure a complete success of this visit," he said.

Interestingly, on arrival in Bangalore on Saturday, Premier Wen linked a settlement on the boundary issue with the overall trajectory of bilateral ties between India and China.

According to Mr. Wen, the two sides should "bear in mind the larger picture, expand exchanges and cooperation in all areas and properly settle questions left over from history."

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