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Welcome to Houseboat Diplomacy

By George Iype in Kumarakom
March 12, 2006 16:18 IST
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Having spent hundreds of hours in air-conditioned rooms trying to solve the vexed border issue, Indian and Chinese diplomats have headed for the backwaters of Kerala in a bid to break the deadlock.

That for you is the India-China 'houseboat diplomacy'.

A 20-member high level Indo-Chinese delegation arrived in Kochi on Sunday to hold bilateral discussions away from New Delhi's diplomatic fortress for the first time.

They were driven to the Taj Garden Retreat at Kumarakom, some 100 kilometers away from the Kochi airport.

It was Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Yuxi who recommended the Kumarakom backwaters for the high-level talks.

The ambassador spent two days in Kumarakom in January, and after he got back to New Delhi he asked National Security Advisor M K Narayanan: "Can we talk diplomacy in a houseboat at Kumarakom?"

Narayanan, who is from Kerala, readily agreed, and asked the Taj Garden Retreat to prepare for the high-level talks.

Hotel general manager Saji Joseph said they have specially arranged a big houseboat with a conference room for the to India-China official team.

"We have also been told to reserve 21 room for the officials. It is for the first time that such important diplomatic meeting is taking place in this resort," Joseph told

While the resort will present a fusion of Indian and Chinese live on-site cooking, a pandal has been erected near the main block of the hotel where cultural shows are planned on Sunday for the members.

A kathakali performance will be staged for the delegates.

Sunday's dinner for the Chinese delegation will also be hosted in a houseboat.

The round of diplomatic talks will begin on Sunday evening in the backdrop of the picturesque backwaters of the Vembanad Lake.

Executive Vice-Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, who is also a special representative of the Chinese Premier, leads the ten-member Chinese delegation. Chinese Ambassador Sub Yuxi is also part of the delegation.

National Security Advisor M K Narayanan leads the ten-member Indian contingent.

Nalin Suri, Indian Ambassador to China, and other officials of the external affairs ministry accompany him.

China has laid claim to nearly 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The discussions at Kumarakom will be wrapped up on Monday afternoon, and the officials will return to Kochi.


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George Iype in Kumarakom