Sonia Gandhi calls for dialogue with China

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Beijing, Oct 27: Congress President Sonia Gandhi today stressed the importance of frank dialogue with China during her visit to Beijing, as the two countires pledged to strengthen bilateral ties.

India and China are competing for global influence and for the raw materials and energy needed to fuel Asia's two fastest growing economies.

''We may well have different views and different perspectives on both bilateral and global issues. That is only natural,'' Ms Gandhi said in a speech to a selected audience of about 50 students at the elite Tsinghua University.

''However, I have no doubt that there is no problem that can not be sorted out through free and frank dialogue and discussion.'' Ms Gandhi is visiting China to pave the way for a visit late this year or early next by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

''Mutually beneficial cooperation (between China and India) will change the look of Asia and the world at large,'' state media cited Chinese president Hu Jintao as saying when he welcomed Ms Gandhi to the Chinese capital yesterday.

Decades of mistrust between the neighbours date back to a 1962 war, and this year has seen an apparent setback in the long-running border dispute which sparked that conflict.

Earlier this week, foreign ministers from India, Russia and China met in China's northeastern city of Harbin, to discuss regional issues.

In her 20 minute speech, Ms Gandhi also spoke highly of China's progress in recent years, saying that the two countries ''have much to contribute to one another.'' ''People in our country admire the tremendous progress China has made since it began its economic reforms in 1978.'' Ms Gandhi's speech comes nearly 20 years after her husband, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, gave a speech to the same university during his official visit in 1988.

After Beijing, Ms Gandhi will visit China's ancient capital of Xi'an, once a terminus of the Silk Road by which Buddhism travelled from India to China, and China's economic hub Shanghai.


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