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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Pranab to take up Sikkim border dispute with China

June 5, 2008

The Indian Express/Reuters
June 4, 2008 at 1413 hrs IST

Foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon revealed that discussion on the
disputed 'Finger Point' area in Sikkim will be the top agenda of
External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to China. Mennon
told a TV channel that there are issues as to how the two nations
"manage the border together".


Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee visits China this week, under
pressure at home for "appeasing" his country's powerful northern
neighbour over a long-running border dispute and over Tibetan protests.

Mukherjee's four-day visit kicks off on Wednesday, with the world's
most populous nations talking the language of partnership, but with
mistrust never far from the surface.

Trade is flourishing, and will be high on the agenda of the meeting,
meant as a follow-up to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit
in January, officials said.

But a border dispute, which dates back to a 1962 war, still festers.
Indian officials in border areas complain of more aggressive Chinese
patrolling and encroachment along the Himalayas in the past year,
although the central government and senior generals have been at
pains to play down the incidents.

Tension also rose after Tibetan protests broke out in India earlier
this year. The Indian ambassador was reportedly summoned to the
foreign ministry in Beijing for a post-midnight dressing down in late March.


First, Mukherjee warned the Dalai Lama, who India has hosted for
decades, to refrain from any political activity that might harm
Sino-Indian relations. The Indian government then closed down central
Delhi to allow the Olympic torch relay to pass without protests,
albeit without spectators either.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an advocate of closer
ties with China while in government, says this was dangerous appeasement.

"The government's craven response to all these endangers India -- for
it tempts China," the BJP said after a meeting of its top leaders on
Monday, referring to Chinese "incursions".

"That temptation is compounded by the slavish attitude that the ...
government has repeatedly demonstrated to China e.g in handling the
Olympic torch matter and by the way it is trying to muzzle His
Holiness the Dalai Lama."

It is a criticism echoed by local commentators like Bharat Bhushan in
the Mail Today, who accused the Indian government of "bending over
backwards" to China without any apparent dividend, and accused
Mukherjee of "making an ass of himself".

"On Tibet, the kind of public scolding Pranab Mukherjee heaped on the
Dalai Lama was astonishing," he wrote.

But Shashi Tharoor, a former U.N. Under Secretary General, author and
commentator, argued that India could not afford to alienate a large
trading partner and an emerging superpower.

"India will continue to balance delicately on the Tibetan tightrope,"
he wrote in Pakistan's Daily Times. "Few observers believe the BJP
would have conducted itself differently."

China claims large swathes of the northeastern Indian state of
Arunachal Pradesh and occupies land in Ladakh in the northwest
claimed by India. But a fresh dispute emerged in recent weeks when
Chinese officials reportedly laid claim to the northernmost tip of
the Indian state of Sikkim.

An Indian official admitted there were "areas of concern" in the
relationship but said he would rather not focus on them.

Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of the border dispute, which
is the subject of separate talks by special envoys, Mukherjee may be
more interested in getting Chinese cooperation over water, he said.

Important Indian rivers like the Brahmaputra rise on the Tibetan
plateau, and although China said it has no plans to divert them, New
Delhi would like to share hydrological data to better manage water
flows downstream.

But Mukherjee has also been criticised at home for getting too
involved in domestic politics and the running of government, and not
paying enough attention to his foreign portfolio.

He did little to reassure his critics on this score on Tuesday morning.

"I have just got the agenda," he told reporters at a business forum,
"but I don't know what we are going to discuss."
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