India, China PMs' begin meeting, stapled visa, economic and strategic ties in focus

Hanoi, Oct. 29 (ANI): The Prime Ministers of India and China - Dr. Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao - have begun a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN and East Asia summits being held here, and it is expected that they will discuss a broad range of issues, including strategic and economic ties, besides the controversy surrounding Beijing's decision to issue stapled visas to residents of Kashmir.

Sources said ahead of the meeting that India has expressed the hope that the talks between the two leaders on Friday will be cordial and productive. There is reason to believe that the talks will be substantive, cordial and productive.

During a photo opportunity featuring the two leaders this morning, Jiabao is said to have told Dr. Singh that he accepted his view that the world was large enough to accommodate the ambitions and aspirations of both India and China, and added that he was looking forward to his visit to India before the end of the year.

Jiabao was referring to Prime Minister Singh's statement made in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. It may be recalled that Dr. Singh also said there are enormous possibilities for India to work with China, and that it is in this sense that New Delhi is pproaching its relations with China.

Dr. Singh replied that he would be happy to receive his Chinese counterpart in New Delhi, and reminded Jiabao that it was the tenth time that both leaders were meeting as prime ministers of their respective countries.

Jiabao said there was a need to achieve a consensus on all major issues so as to lay the foundation of a successful visit to New Delhi.

The two leaders are also expected to review the progress being made on the boundary question and other bilateral, regional and international issues.

Beijing's decision to issue stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir as well as its assistance in projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have been areas of concern for India and these could also be taken up.

India is likely to affirm its position that there should be a uniform practice of issuing visa by China to the residents regardless of the ethnicity or domicile of the applicants.

The trade balance, which is heavily in favour of China, is also likely to be taken up at the meeting.

China is continuing non-trade tariffs barriers with regard to services and pharmaceuticals.

The Prime Minister will also have bilateral talks with the President of South Korea on Friday. He will attend the India -ASEAN summit and East Asia summit on Saturday.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has said that outstanding issues with regard to POSCO steel plant to be set up by South Korea Company will be addressed in a constructive manner.

Sharma who is accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit, was speaking to media on board the special air craft on way to Hanoi from Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, China's state-run Peoples Daily has suggested that India is trying to "encircle China" with its "Look East" policy of befriending Japan and ASEAN countries.

India's " Look East policy" should not mean a policy to "encircle China" and India should "listen" to Beijing's "expression" before joining any anti- China alliance with Japan, said a write-up in the newspaper.

"Singh's visit to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam has been a media hype at home, being even described as a missionary trip to seek new strategic allies to deal with China," it said asking whether India's "Look East Policy" means "Look to encircle China".

India however dismissed any apprehensions in Beijing about it forging closer ties with Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam to encircle China, saying these were stand-alone bilateral relations not predicated on any other country.

"Our relations exist in their own right. These are not predicated on any third country," Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry Latha Reddy, who is accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, told reporters.

"We have valid bilateral relations with each of these countries and these are not predicated by ties with any other country," Reddy said.

She underlined that India's 'Look East Policy' was not new, but as old as 1950s. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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