India, China vow to end border dispute, sign eight agreements

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NeW DELHI: The Indian and Chinese premiers pledged on Monday to finally resolve a border dispute that has soured ties for decades, saying good relations between the two Asian giants were key to world peace.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, making his first foreign visit since taking office, said that Beijing was determined to build up trust with New Delhi as he and a team of ministers signed a series of joint agreements with India.
His host, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also stressed he regarded a good bilateral relationship as crucial to the wider region’s development.
Li’s visit comes after a flare-up last month in a long-running border dispute between the two countries in a remote Himalayan region.
New Delhi accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.
The Line of Actual Control between the nuclear-armed neighbours has never been formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace since the border region saw a brief Indo-Chinese war in 1962.
Singh said there was now a mutual desire to finally resolve the dispute and that a joint working group would be established to reach a lasting agreement.
"We agreed that our special representatives will meet soon to continue discussions seeking an early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement," Singh said after talks with Li.
"Peace and tranquillity on our border has to be preserved," PM Manmohan Singh added at a joint news conference in New Delhi.
Li said the border dispute was a historical hangover and that there was a desire on both sides to overcome it.
"We have established the principles for settling the question," Li said.
"Both sides believe we need to improve the border mechanisms that have been put into place and make them more efficient.. and appropriately resolve our differences.
"The two sides should continue to advance the negotiations on the boundary question and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area," he added.
Speaking earlier, Li had said that good relations between India and China would "be a true blessing for Asia and the world".
"World peace... cannot be a reality without strategic trust between India and China," he added.
The news conference followed signing ceremonies on a series of issues ranging from agriculture to tourism and trade.
There was also an agreement to resolve a dispute over a Chinese plan to build three more hydropower dams across the cross-border Brahmaputra river, known in China as the Yarlung Tsangpo.
Singh said he had raised Indian concerns about the Chinese activities "on the upper reaches of our shared rivers".
Li is also scheduled to meet foreign minister Salman Khurshid, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and senior figures from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party before heading Tuesday to India’s financial hub, Mumbai.
China is India’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling $66.5 billion last year, and the two countries are hoping that figure will reach $100 billion by 2015.
Several major roads in the Indian capital have been closed to prevent Tibetan protestors from disrupting Li’s visit, and exile groups have complained of heavy-handed policing in their neighbourhoods.
Police detained three Tibetan protesters near the luxury Taj Palace in the Indian capital where the Chinese premier was staying, an AFP photographer said.
After wrapping up his visit to India, Li is due to travel to neighbouring Pakistan before heading to Switzerland and Germany.

Ties hinge on peaceful border, Manmohan tells Li

Incursion violates key understanding between two countries

In a frank exchange of concerns, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that the Depsang incursion incident by troops of the People’s Liberation Army had violated a critical understanding lasting many years between leaders of both countries to maintain peace and tranquility on the border at all costs. In an hour-long restricted meeting between the two leaders in the presence of a few aides, Dr. Singh sought to convey that the rest of the India-China relationship flowed from a peaceful border.

NO BORDERLINE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: PTI

Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang waves as he arrives in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

It will be difficult to maintain an even keel in bilateral ties if incidents such as the three-week-long encampment at Depsang took place. Sources privy to the meeting, originally pencilled for 30 minutes, said the Chinese leader agreed with Dr. Singh’s observations and felt it was important to further build trust and understanding in order to maintain a peaceful border.

The Chinese leader, who made India his first overseas destination after becoming Premier in March, expressed concern over India-based Tibetan exiles whipping up sentiments against his country and named their leader, the Dalai Lama, as one of the key persons fuelling the unrest in Tibet. Dr. Singh assured his Chinese counterpart that the Indian position had not changed and said the Dalai Lama was only a religious and spiritual leader.

With the Metro Station near the venue of talks at the Prime Minister’s residence shut to prevent Tibetan exiles from congregating, Dr. Singh reiterated that India will not allow any anti-China activity to be conducted from its soil.

The second issue raised by the Prime Minister was that of common rivers. Trans-border rivers should not divide but unite us, he told Mr. Li while suggesting an expanded dialogue on water. Cooperation in this respect should not remain restricted to exchange of hydrological data but expanded so that both countries are upfront about other aspects such as water use and construction activity, added Dr. Singh.

The third major issue flagged by the Prime Minister — lopsided trade flow — found the Chinese Premier at his responsive best. Mr. Li appreciated India’s willingness to boost trade ties with China and listened attentively when Dr. Singh pointed out that expansion in trade is not possible in an atmosphere of fundamental imbalance. Mr. Li agreed on the need for providing some balance to the trade that is now overwhelmingly in China’s favour and said some initiatives were in the pipeline. These include purchase arrangements with Indian companies and agreements to increase their footprint in China in some sectors.

The restricted meeting took place in a “cordial but candid” atmosphere during which the Prime Minister’s approach was “constructive but firm,” according to the sources. The meeting lays the groundwork for a longer and more detailed format of discussions on Monday.

During dinner, Mr. Li surprised the Indians by opting for vegetarian dishes. Dr. Singh and he also had a long discussion on the international economic crises. The Chinese Premier went down the memory lane by recalling his last visit in 1987 during which he had visited the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Mr. Li arrived here on Sunday afternoon and was received at the airport by Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed besides senior officials including Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai. His 35-car cavalcade first swept him to his hotel fronting a major city artery that has been shut down to discourage protests by Tibetan exiles. The Chinese Premier will be visiting Rajghat tomorrow followed by a series of interactions. After delivering a lecture here, he leaves for Mumbai on Tuesday where industrialists will interact with a 100-member delegation of executives from top Chinese companies.

Li arrives; to hold talks with PM on boundary, water issues

Nearly 27 years after he made his last trip to India, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived here today on his first overseas official visit and will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on all contentious issues, including the boundary dispute later this evening.

Li, accompanied by a senior-level delegation comprising government officials and businessmen, arrived around 3 PM and was received by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed and senior ministry officials including Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.

Shortly after his arrival on a three-day visit to India, which is his first overseas stop after assuming office in March, Li will be holding restricted talks with Singh, who will also host a dinner for the visiting dignitary at his official residence which will be attended by among others members of major political parties, including BJP and SP.
Ahead of his visit, Li had said the fond memories from the visit, which he made 27 years back, also made him choose India for his first overseas visit.

Recalling his visit to India over two-and-a-half decades ago, he said, "What I saw and felt during that trip, visiting the Taj Mahal and prestigious Indian universities, research institutes, and the warmth and hospitality of the Indian people, left a lasting impact on me."

"In a few days’ time I will make India the first stop of my first overseas visit as a premier of China. I have made this decision not just because India is an important neighbour and one of the populous countries of the world but also because of the seeds of friendship sown during my own youth," he had said.

Asserting that India thinks "very highly" of Li’s gesture of making the country his first overseas stop after assuming charge, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said such high-level exchanges are aimed at enhancing trust and understanding as well "exhibit sensitivity" to each other’s concerns.

Be sensitive to our concerns: China told

A day before new Chinese Premier Li Ke­qi­a­ng is set to commence his four-day tour to India, New De­lhi on Saturday asked Beijing to exhibit sensitivity to its concerns, even as persisting differences between the two cast a cloud of uncertainty over the proposed Border Def­ence Cooperation Agreement.

Beijing has been pressing New Delhi hard to ink the agreement to expand the contacts between the troops on both sides of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and speculation has been rife that it may be signed during Li’s visit to India.

Delhi’s reservations

New Delhi, however, has some serious reservations about certain clauses in the draft text proposed by Beijing and officials made it clear that the negotiation on the proposed agreement was yet to be concluded.

“The object of such visits and meetings is to enhance trust and understanding between our two governments and our peoples as well as to exhibit sensitivity to each other’s concerns,” Syed Akbaruddin, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Saturday.

He was briefing mediapersons about the Chinese premier’s visit, which has come under a shadow in the wake of the recent border stand-off between the two neighbours
at Depsang Bulge in Ladakh.

New Delhi, however, took note of the fact that Li chose India as the first destination of his maiden foreign visit as Chinese premier.

“We think very highly of this gesture,” the MEA spokesperson said. India and China “need to carefully nurture” the ties between the two countries.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a restricted meeting with Li and host him at a private dinner after the Chinese premier arrives in New Delhi on Sunday.

They will lead delegations of their respective countries in formal talks on Monday.
Singh is likely to convey

to Li that an early settlement of the dispute was in the interests of the two countries and both should pursue it as a “strategic objective.”

New Delhi would also express concerns over growing imbalance in bilateral ties, apart from increasing Chinese role in development of infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Beijing’s policy of issuing stapled visas to people of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, ostensibly to underscore the disputed status of the two states of India.

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