M A I N   N E W S

India, China take up border issue
PM reminds Wen of ground realities
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Vientiane, November 30
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao here today that the complex boundary issue between the two countries should be dealt with “realistically” after taking into account the existing “ground realities”.

In their first interface here today on the margins of the 10th Asean Summit and the third India-Asean summit, the two leaders underlined the need for “political will and mutual accommodation” in resolving this vexed problem without putting the brakes on taking forward the economic cooperation which had the potential of touching 100 billion dollars in bilateral trade in the assessment of the Chinese.

Dr Singh’s allusion to “ground realities” was an oblique reference to China’s occupation of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and any expansionist designs that Beijing might have in the country’s Northeast.

The “guiding principles” for resolving the boundary dispute will be finalised before Mr Wen’s visit to India in March next year which the Chinese Prime Minister categorised as the “most important agenda” in his calendar for 2005.

Even though India had no anxiety about Sikkim’s status, Mr Wen assured Dr Singh that China acknowledged Sikkim as an integral part of India. “A decision has already been taken by Beijing and we will certainly take all the steps necessary and implement it gradually,” he told Dr Singh at their first high level interface after the Congress-led UPA government assumed office in May in New Delhi. China has already removed Sikkim from its country map.

Tibet did not figure in the Singh-Wen discussion lasting 40 minutes, observed National Security Adviser J.N. Dixit, who is also the government’s special representative for the border talks with China, while briefing mediapersons. He also stressed that there was no “mutual paranoia” like Pakistan.

Mr Dixit made it clear that there was no reference to Pakistan in any of the bilaterals that Dr Singh has had with various leaders on the sidelines of the Asean summit over the last three days.

Mr Wen looked at External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and suggested that we should tell our foreign ministers to work very hard in moving forward on the boundary question. He also shook hands with Mr Dixit and noted that he was acutely aware of the NSA being India’s special representative in the talks on the boundary issue. Four rounds of talks on the boundary issue have been held since the Manmohan Singh government came to power.

The Chinese Prime Minister emphasised that as the two largest countries in the world with a combined population of more than two billion, Beijing and New Delhi coming together politically and economically “has significant importance in regional and global terms.”

“The handshake between you (Dr Singh) and me will catch the attention of the whole world,” Mr Wen added.

He also alluded to too little people-to-people contacts between the two countries. Dr Singh concurred and called for greater people to people contacts. Simultaneously, both leaders felt that business to business contacts and exchanges also need to be increased substantially.

Dr Singh affirmed that regardless of whichever government comes to power in New Delhi, there is continuation and positive orientation in Sino-Indian ties. Mr Wen stressed that Sino-Indian relations were more than 2000 years old and 99.9 per cent of the times the relations between the two countries had been good barring the 0.1 (point one) per cent aberration.

He recalled he had pointedly brought this to the attention of former Defence Minister George Fernandes who at one point had said that China posed the biggest threat to India militarily. Mr Wen spoke of China’s desire to nurture and deepen the positive relations with India.

Dr Singh said India looked forward to Mr Wen’s visit to India next year which the latter described as his most important agenda in 2005.


Framework to resolve border row with China by March, says PM
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

On Board Prime Minister’s Special Aircraft; November 30
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today indicated that the political framework for resolving the border dispute with China could well be in place by the time Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits India early next year.

Dr Manmohan Singh said the Special Representatives of India and China would meet again before the visit of the Chinese premier to India in March.

Dr Manmohan Singh told accompanying reporters on board the special Air India One flight that during his bilateral meeting with Mr Wen, it was hoped the “broad parameters” of resolving the border dispute would be in place before the Chinese premier’s visit.

The Prime Minister said he had a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit, including with his counterparts from China, Japan and Australia.

Giving details about his meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Dr Manmohan Singh said the “complex” boundary dispute between the two countries came up at the meeting. “Both of us agreed to consolidate our bilateral ties in various sectors, including trade and commerce, and discussed a whole gamut of issues, including regional and international matters”, he said.

Both sides agreed there were still vast untapped areas which could be explored for mutual benefit. The Prime Minister said a joint working group was looking at the diverse economic aspects.

The Prime Minister said India and China were the fastest growing economies and pointing out that India’s 6 per cent growth rate during the last 10 years had been “impressive”. Even if India did not achieve 7 per cent growth rate, the logic of compound interest would double it, he said.

He described his visit to Laos for the India-ASEAN Summit as “fruitful” and added that he was overwhelmed by the warmth shown towards India by the leadership of all the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and the grouping’s dialogue partners. He summed up his Laos visit when he said that the future lies in “working together and the signing of the partnership pact would go a long way in this direction.”

While speaking at the summit, Dr Manmohan Singh said he wanted India and ASEAN to work jointly for a future of shared prosperity if the 21st century was is to be made ‘Asian century’.

He quoted Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech in the First Asian Relations Conference in 1947 asking Asian leaders to join hands to usher in a new era.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister returned to New Delhi this evening.

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