M A I N   N E W S

New Delhi, Beijing to cement strategic ties
PM meets Prez Jintao, discusses border issue, trade
Ashok Tuteja writes from Sanya in China

China refrained from publicly announcing any change in its policy of issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir even as the two countries today decided to establish a working mechanism at the official level for consultation and coordination on border issues.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Chinese President Hu Jintao here this evening on the margins of the BRICS summit and discussed a wide range of bilateral issues as well as international developments.

“I wish to reaffirm the desire to strengthen strategic and economic partnership with China in every possible way,” the PM said as he shook hands with the Chinese leader before the start of their meeting. India, he said, was keen to expand the areas of cooperation with China.

Briefing reporters on the 50-minue meeting, National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshanker Menon said the two leaders held “very productive” talks in a friendly atmosphere. They expressed satisfaction at the steady progress in bilateral ties and said they looked forward to further expanding the ties.

Manmohan Singh and Hu formally announced the launching of the “Year of India-China Exchange 2011” during which the two countries would exchange high-level visits by senior political leaders, start a strategic economic dialogue, hold official consultations, exchange defence visits and intensify people-to-people contacts.

The establishment of the working mechanism on border affairs is being considered a significant move by the two countries to maintain peace and tranquility along their long border. The idea, which emerged during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in December last year, has now been given a proper shape. The proposed mechanism would explore possibilities of further cooperation between the two countries in border areas, particularly in the field of trade. The mechanism would also seek to implement the 1993 and 1996 agreements between the two countries for maintaining peace on the border, which Menon described as “most peaceful”.

In response to a question, the NSA said defence exchanges between the two countries had never been frozen. “We always continued defence exchanges. We have maintained communication in the defence field,” he said.

Asked if military exercises would also resume between the two countries, Menon replied in the affirmative but declined to say when it would actually happen.

Following discussions between the two sides in the past few months, it has been decided that a multi-command Indian military delegation would be visiting China this year.

India had stopped sending military delegations to China after Lt Gen BS Jaswal was denied a proper visa by the Chinese authorities in July last year on the ground that he commanded Indian troops in J&K.

On whether the stapled visa issue came up at the meeting, he said the two countries were working on resolving it satisfactorily. However, it did not come up during today’s meeting.

The two leaders asked the Special Representatives (SRs) of the two countries to carry on their work on finding a mutually acceptable solution to the border dispute from the political perspective. Menon himself is the SR from the Indian side while the Chinese SR is senior Communist leader Dai Bingguo. The SRs, who have met 13 times so far, are expected to meet again this year in India.

On the economic side, both Singh and Hu expressed confidence that the two countries were well on their way to achieve the trade target of 100 billion dollars by 2015.

Singh wanted that China should provide better access to India in fields like IT, pharmaceuticals and agro products to reduce the trade deficit between the two countries.

The two leaders also discussed the turmoil in certain countries in West Asia and North Africa and how it could have an impact on energy security.

While Manmohan Singh accepted an invite from Hu to visit Beijing, he also extended an invitation to the Chinese leader to visit New Delhi. The dates would be decided in consultations through diplomatic channels. 





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