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Be clear not to change status quo in Doklam: Indian envoy to China

Gautam Bambawale

Beijing, Jan 26 (UITV/IANS) - The military stand-off at Doklam was a "momentary hurdle" in Sino-India ties but maintaining status quo in the border areas is essential for both countries, India's Ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale has said.

In an interview to the state-run Global Times, the newly appointed envoy touched upon various aspects of bilateral ties and said Beijing needs to be "sensitive" to New Delhi's concerns over issues like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Bambawale said that post-Doklam, India and China need to talk more and be candid with each other. He stressed both countries were not "rivals."

"I look at the Doklam stand-off from such a long-term perspective. When you do so, the Doklam stand-off is just one event in a much longer-term history," the envoy told the English daily, which is run by the Communist Party of China.

"I believe that you are blowing it out of proportion. The people of India and China and our leaders are experienced enough and wise enough to overcome such momentary hurdles in our relationship," Bambawale said.

China and India were locked in a worst-in-decades military stand-off at Doklam last year in the Sikkim section of their border.

Indian troops had halted construction of a road by the People's Liberation Army at Doka La in Doklam, also claimed by Bhutan. This led to an over-two-month stand-off, which was resolved in August after both armies retreated from the point of face-off.

However, some news reports say the Chinese have built massive infrastructure in the area close to Doka La, which is close to India's artery linking its northeast with the rest of the country.

"I believe that in the post-Doklam period, India and China need to be talking to each other and conversing with each other much more than in the past," the envoy said.

Bambawale said it was "important to talk to each other and not talk past each other".

"We must be sensitive to the other side's concerns. Our interaction must be based on equality and mutual benefit. Also, in the India-China border areas, especially at some sensitive points, it is important not to change the status quo. We need to be clear about this," the ambassador said in an apparent reference to Doka La.

He pointed out India's growing concerns about the CPEC, which cuts through the disputed Kashmir.

"The CPEC passes through Indian-claimed territory and hence violates our territorial integrity. This is a major problem for us.

"We need to talk about it, not push it under the carpet. I believe, the more we talk to each other, the easier it will become to resolve problems."

He also talked about the widening trade deficit between both countries.

"There are a few issues about which, we in India, have been focusing attention on. The foremost is the large and growing trade deficit we face with China.

"In 2017, the deficit for India is likely to be $ 55 billion. India sells pharmaceuticals and IT products all over the world but not in China. Why? For 20 years, we have been asking for the Chinese market to be opened for our pharmaceutical and IT products and services. To no avail. What do we make of this? What conclusions should we draw? We should discuss such issues frankly but also take steps to resolve them."

He said there was a lot in common between India and China and both countries have common goals.

"India and China also have common positions on many international and global issues. The prime example is that of climate change. We have been working together on this subject in the past and under the new international circumstances it is especially important that we continue to work together."