| Atal Bihari Vajpayee gestures at the Great Hall of People in Beijing. (PTI)
Beijing, June 24: A day after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao signed the joint declaration to usher in a new approach to bilateral and regional relations, the two sides made the first move on the long road to a solution of the complex boundary dispute.
India today nominated the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, Brajesh Mishra, as its “special representative” to explore “from the political perspective of the overall bilateral relationship the framework of a boundary settlement”. China nominated the senior-most vice-minister in its foreign ministry, Dai Bingguo, as Mishra’s counterpart.
The joint declaration by Vajpayee and Wen, the text of which was released this evening, agreed to appoint one “special representative” from each side for the purpose. The fact that the two sides nominated the two representatives within 24 hours of the declaration, external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said, showed the two sides’ “sense of urgency and sincere desire” to deal with the boundary dispute.
Sinha explained that the existing mechanisms on the boundary settlement issue such as the joint working group and the experts’ group would continue. In the declaration, the two sides reiterated their readiness to seek a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution through consultations on an equal footing”.
Pending an “ultimate solution”, they agreed to work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. They also reiterated their commitment to continue implementation of the agreements signed for this purpose, including “the clarification of the Line of Actual Control”.
While condemning “terrorism in any form”, India and China agreed to promote cooperation on counter-terrorism through their “bilateral dialogue mechanism”.
Asked if Pakistan figured in Vajpayee’s meeting with former President and chairman of the central military commission, Jiang Zemin, Sinha quipped: “They talked about poetry, partnership and a little bit of Pakistan.”
The agreement says the “improvement and development of India-China relations is not targeted at any third country and does not affect either country’s existing friendly relations and cooperation with other countries”.
The Chinese President and Chinese Communist Party general secretary, Hu Jintao, and Vajpayee recalled their meeting at St Petersburg last month and said the new initiative in India-China relations was “on the lines envisaged” at that meeting. Both sides agreed to hold regular high-level exchanges and appreciated the need for annual meetings between foreign ministers to “deepen their coordination and dialogues on bilateral, regional and international issues”.
Analysts on both sides agree that Vajpayee’s visit and the joint declaration promise to bring about a “qualitative change” in India-China engagement.
The Prime Minister looked happy with what he had achieved over the past two days. At a banquet in the evening hosted by the Indian ambassador, Shivshankar Menon, who leaves soon to take charge of the Indian mission in Islamabad, Vajpayee was a relaxed man despite a hectic day of talks with four senior-most Chinese leaders. Adding to his — and the Chinese people’s — happiness was the WHO announcement this afternoon that mainland China is now SARS-free.
And when Vajpayee is happy, he moves freely from politics to poetry. That’s what he did, reciting from one of his own poems, Geet Naya Gata Hoon, Raag Naya Gata Hoon— hoping that he sang a new song or a new tune here.