Boundary dispute to figure in talks with China: PM

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New Delhi, Jan 12: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for Beijing tonight on an official visit, confirming that the boundary dispute and cross-country river issues would figure in his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Describing China as a ''focal point'' of India's ''Look East'' policy, Dr Singh said in his brief departure statement that the bilateral relations between the two Asian neighbours ''are poised to enter a vibrant and dynamic phase.'' He said the relations were based on a common recognition that the growth and development of both the countries would make positive and long-term contributions to regional and global peace, security and stability.

''We share a desire to enhance our relationship both bilaterally and at the global level,'' the Prime Minister, who would return on January 15, said.

Undertaking the visit at the invitation of Mr Wen Jiabao, he would also hold talks with Mr Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the National People's Congress.

Dr Singh said India attached high priority to strengthening its relations with China, recalling that the country established a Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity when Premier Wen Jiabao visited India in April 2005.

During President Hu Jintao's visit in November 2006, the two neighbours laid down a ten-pronged strategy to qualitatively upgrade our bilateral ties.

''I look forward to my discussions with the Chinese leadership on the entire gamut of our relationship. We are engaged in the process of giving substantive content to our partnership through comprehensive economic engagement and developing mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of science and technology, culture, education, defence and security, and increasing people-to- people contacts.

''Issues relating to the boundary and cooperation with regard to trans-boundary rivers will be discussed. I will be discussing how we can work more closely with China on regional, multilateral and global issues,'' he said.

The Prime Minister said it was his belief that regular Summit level interaction with China would contribute to strengthening the cooperative engagement and enhancing mutual trust and understanding.

Dr Singh will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including ministers and top officials.

Ahead of the high-profile visit, India has expressed satisfaction over the talks on the border dispute between the two countries, saying both countries were determined to settle the issue.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters yesterday that the Special Representatives of the two countries on the border issue, were engaged in discussions on an appropriate framework for a final package settlement covering all sectors of the India-China boundary. He said pending the resolution of the issue, peace and tranquility had been maintained in the border area as per the agreements signed earlier.

To a question about the contentious border dispute and China's claims vis a vis India's position, Mr Menon said both sides have different perceptions and the Special Representatives were looking into all these issues.

He said the talks are going on satisfactorily. ''We are happy at the progress made so far,'' he said.

The Prime Minister was initially scheduled to leave tomorrow but the visit was later advanced by a day.

Dr Singh would also hold discussions on the Regional Trading Agreement (RTA) for which the Joint Task Force has already finalised a report in October 2007.

The bilateral trade target is also likely to be reviewed in wake of the upswing trends.

In 2006, the bilateral trade was 25 billion US dollars as compared with 2.91 billion dollars in 2000. The two-way trade touched 34.2 billion US dollars during the period January-November 2007 -- a 54 per cent growth year on year with a trade deficit of 9.02 billion for India.

Mr Menon said the trade target of 40 billion US dollars by 2010 was expected to be achieved before schedule. He said India would explore possibilities of diversification to increase its share in the wake of the trade deficit.

Besides the long-standing border dispute, trade and investment would also be high on the agenda. Talks are also likely to be held on cooperation in civil nuclear energy.

The last visit by an Indian Prime Minister to China was from June 22 to 27, 2003, by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The visit will underscore the message that the two Asian powers, both the world's fastest growing economies, are seeking a relationship of cooperation in a new world.

A number of MOUs, including for cooperation in rail sector, geo-census, health and optimum use of land resources are likely to be signed during the visit.

Dr Singh will also address scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and attend a meeting of Business leaders.

He will also address an Economic Summit on the emerging trends at the global level. Both Indian and Chinese business leaders will attend the meet. Eminent businessmen from India Inc. representing various sectors, would be the part of the business delegation.

UNI

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