PM's China visit: A testimony to the importance attached to Sino-Indian bilateral ties, says Menon

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New Delhi, Jan.11 : Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon today said Dr. Manmohan Singh's visit China from Sunday to Tuesday should be seen as a testimony to the importance both countries attached to their bilateral ties, and added that he expected both sides to cover the entire range of bilateral issues, besides exchanging notes on regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Briefing the media ahead of Dr. Singh's departure for Beijing on Saturday night, Menon said this would be the fifth visit by an Indian Prime Minister to China in the over five decades since diplomatic relations were first established between the two countries, the previous ones being undertaken by Jawarharlal Nehru (1954), Rajiv Gandhi (1988), P.V. Narasimha Rao (1993) and Atal Behari Vajpayee (2003). The visit's significance should be seen in the context of landmark bilateral developments of the last few years, which culminated in the signing of a Strategic Cooperation on Partnership in 2006, activating regular and annual summit-level meetings between the two sides, he said.

Menon said Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and a high-profile business delegation during the visit would accompany the Prime Minister.

Apart from holding talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and calling on President Hu Jintao and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China, Wu Bangguo, Dr. Singh would also address some 400 members of China's business and government community at a summit organized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) on Monday and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on the issue of India-China relations in the 21st century on Tuesday (January 15), Menon said.

The two countries, he added, have institutionalised dialogue mechanisms, and this could be assessed in terms of the several visits, including at the political and ministerial levels, that have taken place since 2003-04.

The meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries (Pranab Mukherjee and Yang Jiechi) on three occasions (Hamburg, Manila and Harbin) in 2007, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's visit to China last October, the establishment of diplomatic consulates in Guangzhou and Kolkata, the first-ever defence dialogue, the first counter-terrorism exercise between the two countries armies and the setting up of tourist offices in Beijing and New Delhi, were all significant developments for both countries.

In the economic context, two-way trade in 2007 was pegged at 37 billion dollars, a rise of 51 percent over the previous year's trade, Menon said, adding that talks on a regional trade agreement (RTA) were progressing along expected lines, and some recommendations of the joint study group appointed to look into it appeared to address some of the major issues.

When asked whether the Special Representatives of the two countries (M.K.Narayanan and Dai Binguo) appointed to look into the vexed boundary question would meet, Menon said they would be meet informally.

Commenting on the proposed MOU to be inked on land resource management, the Foreign Secretary said it was not connected to the boundary question in any way, but was being initiated keeping in mind the very large populations of India and China, the limited availability of arable land, and the all important issue of food security. The focus of the MOU, he said was "land use in the economic sense".

On the boundary question, he said, there was steady progress on the talks and both sides were holding discussions within the agreed framework that reflected the guiding principles. These talks would continue.

He said New Delhi was well aware of Chinese infrastructural activity on its borders with India, and as so long as peace and tranquillity prevails in that area and the status quo is maintained, there was no cause for concern.

Menon said that energy security too would be an issue discussed during Dr. Singh's visit, as both countries were large importers of energy and looking for ways to meet domestic demand.

On the issue of whether China would extend support to India as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal, Menon said both countries have discussed the issue and would continue discussing it.

He also said that both countries support the Bali roadmap on climate change.

ANI

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