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Ajit Doval & Chinese foreign minister bond at Taoism mountain known for Yin & Yang harmony

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Ajit Doval and Wang Yi will make a symbolic visit to Mount Qingcheng near Chengdu after holding border talks in search for a harmonic solution.

Indian national security advisor (NSA) AK Doval and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to Mount Qingcheng near Chengdu city in southwest China after the 21st round of border talks on Saturday will be symbolic of the issue they discuss.

The 4000-feet mountain is closely associated with Taoism, a set of ancient beliefs and philosophy recognised as a religion in China, with its chief focus being unity between opposites, the complementary nature of Yin and Yang and the harmonious existence between light and dark. India and China have been searching for the same elusive harmony in their bilateral ties, which are heavily burdened by the weight of the 3488 km of disputed border stretching from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.

A solution continues to elude the two countries after nearly 45 rounds of talks since 1960.

Both Doval and Wang may know that the “21st round of talks between the Special Representatives (SR) of India and China on the Boundary Question” – the current mechanism — is unlikely to take the protracted negotiations very far.

The search for harmony on the border will continue; let’s keep the peace and maintain tranquility until then could be the focus.

This will be Wang’s first talks as China’s designated SR and the fourth for Doval.

The mechanism was put in place in 2003 with the mandate of achieving a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution for the India-China border question at an early date.

With India gearing up for general elections in about six months – and decision making in New Delhi expected to slow down – this meeting will be more about carrying on the continuity of the talks under the SR mechanism and the positive rhythm – at least on the surface – in the current status of ties.

It will be another important tick in the box of a series of high-level bilateral meetings that have marked the fairly remarkable turnaround in ties since the Doklam (Donglang) military standoff ended last year.

Importantly, it is the first one after the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in April. Modi and Xi had announced there will be guidelines to ease tension along the border to prevent any repeat of a Doklam-type standoff.

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Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had, however, made it clear that the SR mechanism will continue “unabated” to find a permanent solution to the dispute.

“While one of the areas of focus was to maintain peace and tranquility (on the borders), I think the work of the Special Representatives (SRs) on finding a solution to the boundary question will continue unabated,” Gokhale had then said.

One reason for the importance of the talks is that over the years they have evolved to include discussions between the SRs on a range of issues.

The evolution of the talks was mentioned by former Chinese State Councillor and long-time SR, Dai Bingguo in his memoir last year.

“I said the last 10 years is a decade that the China India boundary question SR mechanism went from being established to developing, this mechanism has become a high-level political channel and to a certain degree a strategic dialogue,” he wrote.

“China hopes that the SR will exchange in-depth views on border issues, bilateral relations and international and regional issues of common concerns in a friendly atmosphere so as to push forward Sino-India relations along the track of sound and stable development,” the foreign ministry told HT in an emailed statement on Friday.

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The SRs are likely to discuss the security environment in the region and beyond especially in Afghanistan.

The officials will likely review the progress of the ongoing India-China-Afghanistan project focussed on training Afghan diplomats.

As Dai mentions in his book, it is also an occasion for top bureaucrats to convey their leader’s message to their counterparts; Dai in his 15 talks as SR says he conveyed five messages from the Chinese leadership to his Indian counterpart.

Talks under the SR mechanism were preceded by as many as 15 rounds of negotiations under the JWG mechanism between 1988 and 2003 – itself preceded by another set.

The talks were rebooted to the current SR mechanism in 2003 after then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s China visit.

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