Sun, Aug 31, 2014 - Page 4 News List

India and China choose closer ties over land squabble


For more than 50 years, it has pitted India against China — a smoldering dispute over who should control a swath of land larger than Austria. A brief, bloody war has been fought. Today, thousands of soldiers from both countries sit deployed along their shared frontier, doing little but watching.

However, the standoff between India and China results in almost nothing beyond regular diplomatic talks and professions of international friendship.

China says the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an immense territory of nearly 84,000km2 is part of China. India, meanwhile, insists China is illegally occupying the region of Aksai Chin, a rocky and largely empty 37,000km2 region far to the east.

The two fought a monthlong border war in 1962 that left about 2,000 soldiers dead following a surprise Chinese attack that still embarrasses India.

While border squabbles still occur every year or so, often when Chinese soldiers are reported spotted in Indian territory, there have been few serious showdowns since the late 1980s.

Today, cross-border cooperation is far more common than frontier standoffs. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke repeatedly to top Chinese officials in the first weeks of his administration. Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) recently called the potential for India-China ties “the emerging tip of a massive buried treasure.”

While experts believe diplomatic infrastructure has helped keep things calm — there are now regularly scheduled border talks, military hotlines and designated meeting areas in the Himalayas to ensure that unexpected incidents do not flare into warfare — both countries have more to gain by increasing trade and cooperation.

If politics and trade mean they are getting along now, that will almost certainly not last forever, former Indian ambassador T.C.A. Rangachari said, and the land that does not matter today could very well matter tomorrow.

“In 20 years, maybe 30 years, things could all be very different,” Rangachari said.

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