NEW DELHI: In an effort to keep their sensitive ties on an even keel, India and China will next week hold the 15th round of boundary talks that will also provide them an opportunity to iron out differences over recent irritants like the Chinese denial of a visa to an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer.
The talks, between National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Dai Bingguo, China's special representative, are expected to be held around Jan 17, said informed sources. They will focus on evolving a framework for delineating the border on the map.
The boundary talks were postponed in November after New Delhi refused to relent on China's objection to Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama's participation in a global Buddhist conference in New Delhi.
The two sides are now in the second stage of boundary negotiations which entails evolving a framework for demarcating the disputed border. The second stage is proving to be the "most difficult part of negotiations" as it will form the basis on which the new boundary will be fixed, said informed sources.
The two sides are also expected to sign a landmark border mechanism that seeks to establish direct contact between New Delhi and Beijing in case of intrusions or incidents resulting from misperceptions arising from the Line of Actual Control.
During the talks, the two sides are expected to discuss the likely visit to India of Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The talks between Menon and Dai will also focus on ironing out recent differences over a host of issues that have shadowed ties between the two countries in the past few months.
China recently denied visa to an IAF officer, who was to go as a member of the Indian military delegation to China, on grounds that he was from Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian northeastern state which is claimed by China. This led to India scaling down its delegation from the original 30 to 15.
The arrest of two Indian traders in the Chinese town of Yiwu, who were subsequently released after New Delhi's intense diplomatic intervention, also showed how fragile relations between the two rising Asian powers could be.
Against this backdrop, China has declared that one of its top priorities this year would be to deepen strategic mutual trust with India.
In an interview to Xinhua Sunday, Liu Zhenmin, an assistant foreign minister of China, said: "China is willing to make joint efforts with India to continuously implement the important consensus reached between leaders of the two countries, maintain high-level exchanges, enhance strategic mutual trust, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and properly handle issues concerning the bilateral relationship."
"China hopes that the two sides will support each other and learn from each other, so as to push for better and faster development of Sino-Indian strategic and cooperative partnership," he added.
India, too, is keen to prevent this crucial relationship from skidding off the track. The fact that India went ahead with the annual defence dialogue last month despite the row over the Dalai Lama as well as the visit of the military delegation to China recently showed a new pragmatism by New Delhi to stabilise its relations with Beijing.