China, India agree to narrow border differences
HUA HIN, Thailand: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh agreed on Saturday to gradually narrow differences on border issues between the two countries.
The two sides agreed to continue talks, with the aim of incrementally removing the barriers to a solution that was fair and acceptable to both sides.
Wen and Singh, meeting on the sidelines of the ongoing ASEAN-related summits in Hua Hin, Thailand, also agreed to try to ensure peace and stability in the border area, saying this would be conducive to resolving the border issues and furthering bilateral cooperation.
The two sides also agreed to take measures to encourage bilateral trade and investment, with the hope that bilateral annual trade would reach $60 billion by 2010.
The meeting aimed to help quench recent disputes in bilateral relations, which "actually have no major divergence but are severely impacted by Indian media", a former Chinese ambassador to India said.
The meeting came days before foreign ministers of both countries meet in India on Tuesday and a following return visit by the Indian top diplomat to China to prepare for a visit of Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the first such visit for an Indian head of state in nearly 10 years.
"The intense meetings are certainly related to our recent disputes," former Chinese ambassador to India Pei Yuanying told China Daily on Friday.
Border issues have tortured Beijing and New Delhi for decades. So far, 13 rounds of border talks have been held between the two.
Last week, China expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" over Singh's visit to a disputed border region of so-called "Arunachal Pradesh" where he addressed an election rally. India has also allowed the Dalai Lama to visit the region next month, while Indian media have been clamoring over an alleged "Chinese invasion" after border incidents in recent months.
"Actually there're no big issues between the two neighbors," Pei said. "And from the low-profile way New Delhi is dealing with rumors raised by Indian media - ranging from the 'invasion' to 'China's plan' to construct a huge dam on the upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river (called the Brahmaputra river in India) - we can tell that it's very eager to keep good relations with Beijing."
Singh dismissed the dam rumor this week; he said China is not conducting a project on the river.
Pei said the heaviest pressure from India on bilateral issues comes from Singh's recent comments that India should remain cautious about China's military expansion, which is related to domestic pressure.
China also does not want to see the rumors affect its ties with India and the meetings are good chances for the two sides to make that clear, Pei said.
The two countries have just signed a broad agreement this week to work together on climate change and underlined their shared position on contentious talks seeking a new global climate deal, a typical example of cooperation between the two large developing neighbors, he said.
To facilitate such cooperation, Chinese ambassador to New Delhi Zhang Yan this week called on Indian media to stop one-sided reports that have cast a shadow on mutual trust.