M A I N   N E W S

Natwar’s busy day out in China
Meets Kasuri, Foreign Ministers, Thai PM
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh had a packed schedule today on the first working day of his China visit as he had talks with eight Foreign Ministers, including those of Pakistan, China and Japan, met the Sri Lankan Deputy Foreign Minister and called on the Prime Minister of Thailand.

Mr Natwar Singh’s call on Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which the Foreign Office here announced, assumes significance as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is going to visit that country to attend the BIMSTEC summit.

The two-day BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation) summit, beginning from July 30, was to have taken place earlier this year, but the organisation, as a special gesture, deferred the summit as it coincided with the Indian general election.

Apart from the cynosure of all meetings — the meeting of Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers in Qingdao, China, on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue — Mr Natwar Singh met the Foreign Ministers of China, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan and Oman and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka.

The Foreign Office here said Mr Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, reviewed the progress in all aspects of bilateral relations, including Jammu and Kashmir, and the implementation of a framework for the dialogue process worked out in February by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries.

At a working lunch hosted by Mr Natwar Singh, the two ministers assessed positively the progress in the discussions held, including at the meetings between BSF and Pakistan Rangers, the Narcotics Control Authorities of the two countries, and the expert- level dialogue on nuclear CBMs.

Foreign Office spokesman Navtej Sarna said the two Foreign Ministers welcomed the agreement worked out in the meeting, which concluded yesterday to establish and upgrade communications, and work for specific CBMs, including an agreement on advance notification of missile tests. India and Pakistan have also called for regular working-level meetings to be held among all nuclear powers to discuss issues of common concern.

This was their first direct meeting following the several telephonic conversations between them. This was also the first high-level direct political contact after the new government took over in India.

The two ministers agreed to remain in regular touch and provide continuous political guidance to the ongoing process. They expect to meet each other on several occasions over the next two months.

Mr Natwar Singh’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Mr Li Zhaoxing, assumes significance in view of the fact that the third round of Special Representatives-level talks on the boundary question is to take place soon between the two countries and Beijing has recently removed Sikkim from its official list of independent countries.

Mr Li noted that India and China had very good relations and there was no conflict of fundamental interest between them. China also believes that friendship and cooperation between India and China is not merely in bilateral interest, but also contributes positively to regional and global peace and stability.

Mr Li, according to the Foreign Office here, conveyed to Mr Natwar Singh that China was ready to work with the new government in India to develop deeper relations in political, economic, military and other fields.

Mr Natwar Singh conveyed to Foreign Minister Li that the Government of India attached great importance to relations with China. He invited Foreign Minister Li to visit India and reiterated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to premier Wen Jiabao to visit India later this year.

The Chinese Foreign Minister accepted this invitation and conveyed his hope that he would be able to visit India in the near future.

Mr Natwar Singh also underlined that India was committed to developing relations with China on the basis of the principles of Panchsheel, mutual sensitivity to each other’s concerns and equality.

The two ministers also discussed other aspects of bilateral relations, including the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Panchsheel on June 28, 2004, on which occasion Mr Natwar Singh will be hosting a reception in New Delhi and there will be a function.

Both sides agreed that it was important to continue to sustain the development of trade relations and defence exchanges. Foreign Minister Li also took the opportunity to thank India for its consistent support to China at the Commission of Human Rights in Geneva and for India’s one-China policy.


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