India, China Try to Overcome History of Mistrust: Jiang Visit Yields Four Pacts, but Much Is Left to Do

By Chellaney, Brahma | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 7, 1996 | Go to article overview

India, China Try to Overcome History of Mistrust: Jiang Visit Yields Four Pacts, but Much Is Left to Do


Chellaney, Brahma, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


NEW DELHI - The first visit of a Chinese head of state to India last weekend yielded four agreements intended to reinforce the gradual thaw in relations between the world's two most populous nations, which share a long, disputed Himalayan border.

President Jiang Zemin's visit, however, was a reminder of how little the two giants have achieved in substantive terms despite 15 years of border-related negotiations, according to diplomats and independent analysts.

A new package of confidence-building measures, part of an agreement aimed at reducing military deployments, reveals that the two sides so far have failed to even define the exact location of their de facto border.

The "full implementation" of the latest accord "will depend on the two sides arriving at a common understanding of the line of actual control," says Article X of the pact.

Although the two sides have held many rounds of negotiations at senior levels since 1981, the 2,500-mile border remains spiked with dangerous ambiguities, particularly in areas where the opposing troops are in proximity.

Yet, the latest accord ambitiously seeks to prohibit warplane flights within six miles of the border and firing and exploding ordnance within 1.2 miles.

Mr. Jiang's visit underlined the challenges the two Asian powers confront in fashioning a cooperative relationship based on mutual adjustment of conflicting interests.

The two are locked in an intense but quiet political, economic and military rivalry, competing for influence in other parts of the world and seeking to attract Western capital and win concessional international credit.

IMPERIAL VISIT

Mr. Jiang, who is also the Communist Party boss and head of the Military Commission, left New Delhi imperially without softening China's stance on any issue, including its continuing covert nuclear and missile assistance to Pakistan and its claim to the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

In his speeches in India, Pakistan and then Nepal, Mr. Jiang left no one in doubt about China's determination to play the big brother.

Equally significant is Beijing's refusal to treat India as an equal, according to diplomats and other analysts.

Officials said that after New Delhi reluctantly agreed to the visit at this juncture, Mr. Jiang added Islamabad to his itinerary to drive home the point that India is on par with Pakistan, not with China.

Before heading for Pakistan, which China has built up as a military counterweight to India, Mr. Jiang patronizingly offered his country's "constructive" services to New Delhi for improving ties with Islamabad.

"We can play a constructive role in this matter," Mr. Jiang's spokesman told reporters in New Delhi.

The spokesman said China has "never" transferred missiles or nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, even though Beijing has acknowledged privately in talks with U.S. and Indian officials that some transfers have taken place.

These include the nuclear-capable M-11 missiles and uranium-enrichment ring magnets, which Beijing claimed were sold by a state-owned company without the state's knowledge.

Arriving in Islamabad, Mr. Jiang pledged to continue Chinese-Pakistani cooperation in nuclear energy and other technological areas.

China has responded to India's plans to build a main battle tank and import advanced jet trainers by signing contracts with Pakistan to co-produce a new tank with a sophisticated 125mm smooth-bore gun and sell its new K-8 jet trainer.

"In India, Jiang sought to give an impression of a viceroy visiting his satrapy," said former Indian Foreign Secretary A.P. Venkateswaran, a China expert who served as ambassador in Beijing. "After all, the official English-language China Daily newspaper, before the visit, derisively said China has never regarded India as a formidable enemy. …

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