New China Premier Visits India 05/19 15:15
NEW DELHI (AP) -- Just weeks after a tense border standoff, China's new
premier visited India on Sunday on his first foreign trip as the neighboring
giants look to speed up efforts to settle a decades-old boundary dispute and
boost economic ties.
Premier Li Keqiang met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the two
leaders emphasized that efforts should be made to resolve the border dispute
between the two countries which led to a bloody war in 1962, India's External
Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
The two leaders also underscored the need for maintaining peace and
tranquility along the de facto border pending resolution of the boundary issue,
In a written statement on his arrival in the Indian capital, Li said China
regarded India as an important partner and friend and expressed the hope that
his visit would inject new vigor into their cooperative partnership, the Press
Trust of India news agency reported.
Li said both China and India were speeding up their development and making
steady efforts to boost their economy and improve people's lives.
The statement said the major markets of India and China could complement
each other and fulfill the need for common development with win-win results,
China says Li's choice of India for his first trip abroad since taking
office in March shows the importance Beijing attaches to improving relations
with New Delhi.
"We think very highly of this gesture because it is our view that high-level
political exchanges between our two countries are an important aspect and
vehicle for our expanded cooperation," said Akbaruddin.
Jasjit Singh, a defense analyst and director of the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in New Delhi, said last month's border standoff was
unlikely to overshadow Li's three-day visit, the first stop of a foreign tour
that also includes Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany.
Singh said Indian and Chinese leaders are likely to review border talks that
have failed to produce a breakthrough despite 15 rounds of discussions over the
past 10 years. The two sides also will probably discuss working together in
Afghanistan after next year's U.S. pullout and cooperation with Southeast Asian
countries, he said.
But tensions run high between the two nations. China already sees itself as
Asia's great power, while India hopes its increasing economic and military
might --- though still far below its neighbor's --- will eventually put it in
the same league.
While China has worked to shore up relationships with Nepal and Sri Lanka in
India's traditional South Asian sphere of influence, India has been venturing
into partnerships with Southeast Asian nations.
Other irritants remain in the bilateral relationship. China is a longtime
ally and weapons supplier to Pakistan, India's bitter rival. Also, the presence
in India of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the self-declared
Tibetan government-in-exile are a source of tension. China accuses the Dalai
Lama of wanting to split Tibet off from the rest of China, but he says he seeks
more autonomy for Tibetans, not independence.
Unresolved border issues between the two nations have flared as well.
In last month's incident, India said Chinese troops crossed the countries'
de facto border on April 15 and pitched camp in the Depsang valley in the
Ladakh region of eastern Kashmir. New Delhi responded with diplomatic protests
and then moved its soldiers just 300 meters (yards) from the Chinese position.
The two sides negotiated a peaceful end to the standoff by withdrawing
troops to their original positions in the Ladakh area.
Gautam Bambawale, a senior external affairs ministry official, said Saturday
that India and China are negotiating a Border Defense Cooperation Agreement,
but declined to give details. Indian media reports said the agreement proposes
a freezing of troop levels in the disputed border region as the two countries
make efforts to settle the issue.
Bambawale also said Indian and Chinese officials recently held talks in
Beijing on the future of Afghanistan. China, India and Russia have discussed
the matter trilaterally with the idea of giving full support to Afghanistan's
government as it makes the transition following the withdrawal of U.S. forces
Later Sunday, Li was to attend a dinner hosted by Singh.
Delegation-level talks between the two sides are scheduled for Monday. Li is
to attend a business summit in Mumbai, India's financial capital, among other
The border spat last month prompted the Indian opposition and media to
pressure the government to take on China and call off Li's visit. The
government, however, chose to go ahead with the trip, highlighting its policy
of trying to widen areas of cooperation with China while attempting to resolve
China has become India's biggest trading partner, with two-way trade jumping
from $5 billion in 2002 to nearly $75 billion in 2011, although that figure
declined to $61.5 billion last year because of the global economic downturn.
Trade remains heavily skewed in China's favor, another source of concern for
India and China have had chilly relations since they fought a brief but
bloody border war in 1962.
India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles)
of its territory in the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas, while
China claims around 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) in India's
northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Dorjee Tseten, director of Students for a Free Tibet, said Sunday that New
Delhi police had declined permission for Tibetans to hold a demonstration
against Li's visit.
"Tibetan activists are currently on the run evading imminent police arrest,"
he said in a statement, complaining of a heavy police presence in a New Delhi
area where a large number of Tibetans-in-exile live.
Police overpowered and detained a Tibetan man as he tried to burn the
Chinese flag near China's embassy in the Indian capital.
Police, however, allowed about two dozen members of Shiv Sena, a Hindu
right-wing political party, to demonstrate near India's Parliament, where they
burned an effigy of the Chinese premier.
"Go back, go back," chanted the protesters, who also carried placards urging
the Indian government to respond toughly to China's alleged border incursion.
The powerful regional party held power in Mumbai from 1995 to 2000.