Beijing: India and China should be patient in resolving their long-standing border issue though "difficulties remain high", a senior official here has said, falling back on a Chinese metaphor to buttress his point. He also suggested that too much focus on the border issue might not be helpful.
A solution would work out in the course of time, just like "a watermelon, which when ripe will come down on its own", said Ma Jisheng, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's information department.
"More haste on the issue would lead to less speed," Ma told a group of visiting Indian journalists, adding that the talks should be backed by more cooperation and feelings in relations in the political field.
He noted that the joint working group on the border had "achieved some progress but difficulties remain high".
Ma also said that "too much focus" on the issue was a deterrent. "Change the ways and eyes and that will give a different approach to solving the issue," Ma said.
The two countries held their 15th round of border talks in New Delhi in January between Chinese special representative, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, and Indian special representative, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon. The next round of talks is to be held in China.
In separate interactions with the Indian journalists, Chinese officials, including senior women officers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) , and experts on Sino-Indian affairs stressed that while the border issue involved "core national interests", it should not be allowed to dictate bilateral ties in other spheres.
Ma said the two countries should follow a two-track policy - hold talks away from the spotlight on the border issue while continuing to boost their ties in the economic, cultural, educational and other fields.
"Negotiations on the border issue should be on one track, and on other track the economic, cultural ties should go on," he said.
He said bilateral trade has jumped manifold in the last decade - from $2.9 billion in 2000 to $73.9 billion in 2011. "If all the attention had been on the border issue, then trade would not have jumped," Ma said.
To a query on reports of incursions by Chinese troops across the border into Arunachal Pradesh, a senior PLA officer, in another interaction, stressed that the border between their two countries has not been officially demarcated.
Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center on China-America Defence Relations at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said both India and China have a "different concept" of the Line of Actual Control as it is not a "physical concept". Thus, reports in the Indian media of Chinese troops having crossed over cannot be termed transgressions.
"The border has not been officially demarcated; therefore you cannot call it transgression by Chinese troops...We don't see how the calculation was arrived at...Maybe then Indian border troops have transgressed more than China has done, according to the Chinese side," she said, and stressed that China was for maintaining status quo on the border issue for stability and tranquillity.
Col Guo Hongtao, staff officer Asian Affairs Bureau in the defence ministry's foreign affairs office, said there were differences of perception of the Line of Actual Control between the two countries as "in some sections of LAC, China thinks it belongs to it, while India proclaims sovereignty, and vice versa...which leads to disagreement".
The nearly 4,057-km Line of Actual Control divides India and China.
To a question on the status of Sikkim, the official said China has officially proclaimed in 2004 that the previous line between China and Sikkim has been replaced by the Sikkim section.
He also said that the problem of issuing visas on passports to people from Arunachal Pradesh was "under discussion".
The Indian journalists were visiting China on the invite of the All China Journalists' Association.