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Border conflict shrinks into past as healthy competition grows

By Shastri Ramachandaran (Global Times)

16:29, June 27, 2012

Fifty years after the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962, the memory of that conflict no longer looms large for the two rising Asian powers, which are locked in a competition-cooperation mode.

There are doubtless contradictions in a double-sided race where India and China have to compete and cooperate at the same time. Yet, the evidence so far suggests that the competition is as friendly, healthy and cordial as the cooperation. The credit for that goes not only to the present leadership in New Delhi and Beijing, but also to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's ground-breaking visit to the People's Republic in 1988.

The gains of that breakthrough, which paved the way for the signing of two critical agreements, one on border peace and tranquility in 1993, and one on military confidence-building measures in 1996,were further reinforced by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit in 2003. Vajpayee's visit saw the creation of the special representatives' talks on the boundary issue, which laid the foundation of increased trade and greater economic and cultural ties.

On the boundary question, there have been 15 meetings of the special representatives, 10 of the Sino-Indian Joint Working Group and five of an expert group. There has been little progress, but this is still a positive situation. It underscores the success of the effort to delink the border issue, quarantine it from other interactions and ensure that it does not figure between India and China in bilateral, regional and international forums.

It is now clear that in this emerging pattern of bilateral relations, the boundary issue will not be allowed to vitiate the other tracks and forums where India and China come together. It cannot be otherwise, for "there are many areas of convergence of interests between India and China," as D.S. Rajan, Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies pointed out.

He recalled that traditionally Chinese Buddhists referred to India as "Western Heaven," and China as "Eastern Heaven." "This shows the very high status China accords to India as a civilization, a powerhouse," said Rajan.

How does this perception translate in the real, strategic world? It translates into a compulsion for both countries to work together and turn almost a blind eye to problems that won't go away.

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