China and India today concluded five days of sensitive border negotiations with an agreement to continue talking at a later date and in accord on improving general relations with expanded trade and cultural exchanges.
As a high-level Indian delegation left Peking tonight, a spokesman said that the first bilateral border talks in almost 20 years "brought out the extent to which differences remained between the two sides."
The talks also proved that "both sides desired to continue the effort to resolve their differences," said the Indian spokesman, adding, "It is anticipated there would be several discussions to solve them."
The decision to continue talks at an unspecified time is seen as a sign of progress in unraveling the complex border dispute that has divided the two Asian giants since the Sino-Indian war of 1962.
Negotiators must have found enough common ground to agree to another round of talks, according to diplomatic analysts.
China hopes to normalize relations with India to reduce Soviet influence in South Asia. The Soviets provide India with most of its military equipment and economic assistance.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement tonight saying the talks were conducted in "an amicable atmosphere." It said that "both sides adopted a positive attitude which was conducive to further developing the relations between the two countries."
Until now New Delhi has refused to consider normalization before a settlement of the border problem, which erupted into war when China crossed the Himalayan boundary in October 1962 and seized large tracts of Indian territory.
India dropped its precondition in June when Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua visited New Delhi and emerged with an agreement for the two sides to sit down and discuss border issues as well as the whole range of bilateral relations.
Summing up the past few days, the Indian spokesman said both sides resolved to "strengthen friendship and work out programs for further exchanges in other fields while pursuing their efforts in the boundary question."
He specificially cited cultural and scientific exchanges and trade as possible areas for improving bilateral contacts. Two-way trade now runs $100 million each year. Trade experts estimate that it could reach $3 billion annually if relations improve.
Although the recent round of talks covered a wide range of economic, trade and cultural issues, the main topic was the troubled border, a 2,500-mile stretch of rugged terrain that skirts the Himalayas.
Except for occasional incidents, the border has remained quiet in recent years. The Indians station about 195,000 troops along the disputed frontier. Chinese troop strength is unknown although there reportedly are at least 180,000 soldiers in Tibet.
The border problem is highly complicated with conflicting claims on tens of thousands of square miles. In simple form, India claims 14,500 square miles on the western portion of the frontier while Peking claims 50,000 square miles in the east.
China has hinted that it is willing to give up its claim in the east if India recognizes its control over the west, which includes an important military road in the Aksai Chin that links China to its ally, Pakistan.
India rejects this so-called package deal, claiming it stands by the so-called McMahon Line demarcated by the British in 1914. Instead of a tradeoff, India insists on a sector-by-sector settlement.
Despite clear differences over the border issue, the two sides have large strategic interests in settling their dispute and normalizing relations, according to diplomatic observers in Peking.