Post-1976 trend of India's China policy

Print edition : June 10, 2000

IF Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in December 1988 was the breakthrough event, Ambassador K.R. Narayanan inaugurated the evolution of the positive trend in national policy 12 years before that. Here are some of the markers of this trend, which suffered a setback in May 1998 and recovered in June 1999:

July 1976: Re-establishment of Ambassadorial-level relations; K.R. Narayanan is India's first Ambassador to China since 1962.

February 1979: External Affairs Minister A.B. Vajpayee makes an important visit to China. Greeting him, new helmsman Deng Xiaoping says: "We do have some issues on which we are far apart. We should put those on the side for the moment and do some actual work to improve the climate to go about the problem. Our two countries are the two most populous countries in the world, and we are both Asian countries. How can we not be friends?" However, the positive results of the visit are overshadowed by China's invasion of Vietnam towards the end of the visit.

December 1988: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi makes a five-day breakthrough visit to China and is warmly greeted by Deng Xiaoping, who sets the tone for the breakthrough. Both sides agree to develop relations in various fields. The decision to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG), with the twin mandate of ensuring peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and working on a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary question, is the creative, breakthrough event in post-1962 India-China relations.

December 1991: Premier Li Peng makes a return visit to India; the communique concluding this official visit reiterates the mutual commitment to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC.

May 1992: President R. Venkataraman makes a State visit to China.

September 1993: Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao makes a return visit to China. The most significant development is the signing of an Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas. A Sino-Indian Expert Group (EG) is set up to assist the work of the JWG on the boundary question.

October 1994: Vice-President K.R. Narayanan visits China and is warmly received as an "old friend of China."

November 1996: President Jiang Zemin makes a four-day visit to India - it is the first ever visit by a President of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to India. An important outcome is the signing of the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas. Other agreements signed relate to the maintenance of the Consulate General of India in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC; Cooperation for Combating Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Other Crimes; and Maritime Transport. President Jiang extends an invitation to the Indian President to visit China.

May 1998: Negative Indian official statements preceding and following the Pokhran-II nuclear explosions disrupt Sino-Indian relations. Public acrimony and a chill descend on the relationship.

February 1999: The first round of Foreign Office Consultations between India and China, as decided by the JWG, takes place in Beijing. The talks, which cover bilateral, regional and international issues, help break the ice.

June 1999: External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh visits China at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan to make amends. The two sides agree jointly to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (April 1, 2000). Agreements are reached on promoting Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), starting a Security Dialogue, and expanding economic and trade relations.

March 2000: The first round of the India-China Security Dialogue is held in Beijing.

April 1, 2000: Official celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations begin.

(1988-2000: Various sets of India-China exchanges take place at the party-to-party, parliamentary, Ministerial, official, military, business, science and technology, professional, cultural, sports and other levels. Two-way trade between India and China reaches $ 1.987 billion in 1999.)

May 28-June 3, 2000: President Narayanan makes a week-long State visit to China. The Indian President invites President Jiang to visit India again. The Chinese President accepts the invitation. It is decided that the Foreign Minister and Premier will visit India in the near future.

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