CHINA: No plan to give up Arunachal claim

Foreign ministry spokesperson refutes report from Hong Kong newspaper 'Ming Pao' about impending settlement between China and India regarding Arunachal Pradesh

The Times of India
Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beijing --- Ming Pao, a Chinese newspaper in Hong Kong, has caused some amount of embarrassment for Chinese authorities by saying that Beijing was prepared to give up its claims over Arunachal Pradesh provided New Delhi allowed China to retain its control over Aksai Chin in the western sector.

China wants just 28 per cent of the 120,000 square kms of disputed area, it said. Beijing also wants New Delhi to concede 2,000 sq kms of territory that it now holds in the middle part of the disputed zone, which China regards as part of the Tibetan plateau besides allowing it to hold on to 33,000 sq kms of Aksai Chin, Ming Pao said. Going by this report, settlement of the border row is round the corner if India agreed to cede just 2,000 kms of territory.

The report has been strongly refuted by the Chinese foreign ministry, which described it as groundless. Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China is willing to make joint efforts with India in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the issue.

Fu Xiaoqiang, a scholar at the state-run China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, was quoted by the official media as saying that the Ming Pao report actually reflected India's position on the border dispute.

The comments by the influential Ming Pao, which also has two editions in Canada, came just before Indian national security advisor MK Narayanan and Chinese state councilor Dai Bingguo began the 13th round of border negotiations in New Delhi on Friday.

The report gives some idea about Beijing's desperation to hold on to the Aksai Chin area, which is connected to the troubled Xinjiang bordering Pakistan. Xinjiang, which recently saw bloody riots, has been the hotbed of a separatist movement seeking to create an independent East Turkmenistan nation.

Though Hong Kong newspapers enjoy a lot of press freedom as compared to the state-controlled media regime in mainland China, the Ming Pao report caused a good amount of embarrassment to Chinese authorities. Chinese officials usually give no hint of what is on their mind on sensitive issues including the border talks.

Ming Pao said Beijing was prepared to concede 72 per cent of the disputed area but India was adamant about having all of it. It advised Chinese authorities to avoid taking rash decisions lest they are criticized by future generations.