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Border settlement principles in place

New Delhi, April 11: India and China today reached an agreement that will help them resolve the decade-old boundary dispute without disturbing the 'overall development' of ties.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were present as the agreement on 'political parameters and guiding principles' was signed this afternoon.

Although no timeframe has been set, there are clear indications that the two sides are keen to make the 'required adjustments' for an early settlement of the dispute.

'The differences on the boundary question should not be allowed to affect the overall development of bilateral relations. The two sides will resolve the boundary question through peaceful and friendly consultations. Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means,' Article I of the document states.

The understanding is also significant as it comes days before Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is due to arrive in Delhi for talks with the Indian leadership.

Despite the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service adding pace to the peace process, Musharraf has been firm on the need to move forward on Kashmir, which he has described as the 'core issue' in bilateral ties.

Delhi might cite the example of the Beijing document to convince the Pakistan President that differences on Kashmir should not be allowed to impact relationship between the neighbours.

The nine points agreed on by the two sides ' they had been firmed up yesterday during a meeting between special representatives Dai Bing Guo and M.K. Narayanan ' would provide a framework to help reach a settlement on the boundary issue.

Among them is mutual understanding to make meaningful and acceptable adjustments to the countries' respective positions and also to accept that the settlement must be 'final', covering all sectors of the boundary.

The document says the two sides should give importance to each other's 'strategic and reasonable' interests on the principle of 'mutual and equal' security.

'Historical evidence, national sentiment, practical difficulties and reasonable concerns and sensitivities of both sides and (the) actual state of border areas' should be taken into account while going for a final solution, it adds.

Members of the India-China Joint Working Group, which looks after the Line of Actual Control, would exchange maps of the western and eastern sectors to clarify their perceptions of the boundary.

Throughout the entire process, Delhi and Beijing have agreed to maintain 'peace and tranquillity' along the Line of Actual Control. They signed a pact this afternoon to start implementing military confidence-building-measures, which the two countries had put forward in 1993 and again in 1996.

The agreement stressed that 'the fundamental interests of the people of India and China to foster a long-term constructive and cooperative partnership' are best served 'on the basis of the five principles of peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and sensitivity to each other's concerns and aspiration and equality'.

It added that the relationship should be upgraded at all levels while addressing differences in 'a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable manner'.

Foreign secretary Shyam Saran said the significance of the document lies in the fact that the leaderships of the two countries have made an attempt to resolve the boundary crisis.

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