India-China border tensions belie leaders’ warm words

NEW DELHI, December 26, 2010 (AFP) – The theme of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India was “friends not rivals,” but a border dispute remains a source of tension and, analysts warn, potential conflict between the Asian giants. The joint communique that concluded Wen’s recent visit barely mentioned the long-standing border issue, as both sides sought to highlight areas of agreement with an ambitious plan to double trade to 100 billion dollars by 2015.

The only reference was a vague pledge to try and “maintain peace and tranquility” in border areas and continue talks on the issue — already the subject of 14 rounds of fruitless negotiations.

“It will not be easy to resolve this; it requires patience,” was Wen’s only public comment.

The border dispute triggered a brief but bloody war in 1962 that proved to be a defining moment in modern Indo-Chinese relations and the basis for decades of mutual suspicion and mistrust that have yet to be be fully shed.

India says China is illegally occupying 38,000 square kilometres (15,000 square miles) of its northwestern territory, while Beijing claims a 90,000-square-kilometre chunk of northeast India.

Perceptions that China is taking a harder line on its claims h