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China for early settlement of boundary dispute with India: Sun Weidong

  • Need to to accommodate each other’s concerns & find a solution that is fair, rational and acceptable to both sides: Next Chinese envoy to New Delhi
  • "Peaceful India-China border as a prerequisite to reaching a solution to the boundary dispute"

China has signalled a strong desire to work with India in taking concrete steps towards “early settlement” of the boundary dispute. The signal comes from a senior diplomat ahead of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to India in October.

“As two neighbours and time-honoured civilizations, I think the two countries have sufficient political wisdom to resolve the boundary dispute,” Sun Weidong, who is due to take over as China’s next ambassador to India, said on Friday.

Talking to Indian journalists here, Sun suggested that Beijing wanted to see some decisive measures from the two sides towards dispute resolution. Such statements are carefully vetted in the Chinese political system before being aired.

“We hope that we can have equal-footing talks to accommodate each other’s concerns so as to find a solution that is fair, rational and acceptable to both sides,” he said in carefully nuanced language.

The veteran diplomat comes to India after extensive experience as an official looking at Asian affairs in China’s foreign ministry and after a stint as ambassador in Islamabad, where he helped implement the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Sun said he was looking forward to working with external affairs minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi. The two diplomats interacted with each other closely during the period when Jaishankar was India’s ambassador in Beijing until 2013.

“This year, the two leaders (Modi and Xi) are going to hold another informal meeting. I believe this will be the top priority in our bilateral relations, which will surely scale our ties to new heights,” Sun said.

The envoy also laid stress on a peaceful India-China border as a prerequisite to reaching a solution to the boundary dispute, which he described as a “legacy left over from history”.

“But before we finally come to a solution to this boundary dispute, we have to properly manage our differences so as to ensure peace and tranquility in border areas,” he said.

There are also signs of a discussion on the border issue between Indian and Chinese officials as part of the preparations for the visit of the Chinese president.

The diplomat said the two countries should not allow some individual incidents to disrupt the long-term relationship. He did not specify any incident but might have alluded to recent reports about some differences in the Ladakh region.

Talking about the problem of trade gap, Sun said China “highly values” India’s concerns about the serious export-import imbalance that existed between the two countries. Beijing has taken steps to accelerate the process of approving Indian medicines for sale in China and increased imports of rice and sugar from India, he said.

“I am convinced that with our concerted efforts, the issue of trade imbalance between China and India will be gradually addressed,” the envoy said.

At present, China buys just about 20% of the total value of two-way trade and sells the major part to India. Sun did not specifically answer a question about whether Beijing would offer some assurance on increasing purchases from India to 40% in the next two years.

China also expects India to come out more forcefully against the trade actions by the US, which has severely hurt the Chinese economy and has now begun to affect Indian interests as well. Sun did not name the US but cautioned against “the ugly path of unilateralism and protectionism” that has now affected the growth and stability of the world economy.

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