Tuesday, June 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

India, China sign accord
Agreement on trade through Sikkim
M.K. Razdan

Beijing, June 23
In the first-ever joint declaration in their long history, India and China tonight laid down "goals and guiding principles" for their bilateral relationship at the end of the first day’s talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao during which the contentious border dispute was among the topics discussed with "an openness and frankness as between friends."

The signing of the declaration by the two leaders at the Great Hall of the People here was described as "a major feat" by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as the two sides raised a toast to further prospering of the ties between the Asian giants. The Prime Minister and the delegation went into an adjoining dining hall for the official banquet in honour of Mr Vajpayee, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit China after a decade.

In an implicit recognition of Sikkim being part of the Indian territory, China today agreed to trade through the North Eastern state and India has decided to recognise the Tibetan autonomous region as part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.

The agreement on the opening of trading posts on the Sikkim-Tibet border, in effect recognising Sikkim as part of India after 28 years of its merger, is contained in an memorandum of understanding on expanded border trade signed at the end of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s discussions with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao here.

India has agreed to recognise the Tibetan autonomous region as part of the Chinese territory. The details and the exact formulations on the sensitive subjects of Sikkim and Tibet would be known only tomorrow after the joint declaration, signed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, and the border trade agreement initialled by ministers of the two countries, will be made public tomorrow, a day prior to the Indian leader’s departure to Shanghai.

While being reticent about the two documents, Indian sources sought to dispel any suggestion of a quid pro quo on questions of Sikkim and Tibet.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) expanding the bilateral border trade was also signed by External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and Chinese Commerce Minister Lu Fuyan in the presence of the two Prime Ministers, reflecting the fact that trade and commercial ties figure high in the relationship.

Wen Jiabao, a new generation Chinese leader who has been in office only for three months and who at 60 is Mr Vajpayee’s junior by 18 years, was quoted as saying that the declaration indicated a new phase in Sino-Indian ties.

Mr Vajpayee, who has come to China in an official capacity after 24 years, began the first full day of his six-day visit by driving from his hotel to the Great Hall of the People for talks with Mr Wen Jiabao which were preceded by a formal ceremonial welcome.

The two leaders and their delegations met for more than two hours addressing a wide gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues.

During the course of the discussion on the situation in South Asia, Mr Vajpayee referred to the continuing cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and said he was disappointed that this was not being stopped. The Chinese leadership appreciated Mr Vajpayee’s recent peace initiative with Pakistan and said Beijing hoped to see further relaxation in the tension in Indo-Pakistan ties.

On the disputed border, the Chinese Premier proposed the phasing out of differences and both sides agreed to speed up a final solution.

Senior Indian and Chinese officials then started working on the joint declaration which was drafted by the evening.

The question of China recognising Sikkim as a part of India also figured in the talks but

there was no word from either side on the trend of the discussion on it. The Chinese Premier told Mr Vajpayee that China did not regard Indian progress as a threat and that China in turn would not be a threat to any other country.

On the bilateral economic front, China announced a $ 500 million corpus for enhanced investment in India even as the two countries signed nine agreements covering a wide variety of subjects, including the simplification of visa procedures. The Chinese side conveyed its decision on the corpus which will further enhance this country’s investments in India, during the discussions between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao here.

Besides the agreement on simplifying visa procedures, the agreements signed after the talks also includes an memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the law ministries of the two countries for close cooperation in the judicial field and one on strengthening of mutual cooperation in education. The two countries will discuss mutual recognition of academic degrees.

Amidst his busy schedule, the Prime Minister also inaugurated a Centre for Indian Studies at the Peking University and pledged Rs 50 lakh for a five-year period towards its running costs. Mr Vajpayee stressed that India and China were not a threat to each other and that the two countries should resist “contradictory pulls”.

Another memorandum signed aims at promoting development and cooperation in integrated coastal zone management and exploration of seabed resources. Such cooperation will be developed through the exchange of scientists, research works and scholars.

A protocol of phytosanitary requirements to facilitate the exports of fresh Indian fruits and vegetables to China was also inked. India had proposed 17 categories of fruits and vegetables, but the Chinese decided to deal with each item separately and today’s protocol covers mangoes.

India and China, joint initiators of the famous ‘Panchsheel’ treaty, also decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary in befitting manner. India also asked China to open a new route for its pilgrims to visit the holy Mount Kailash in the Tibet Autonomous Region. — PTI

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