Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to travel to Beijing and meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for summit level talks on October 23, despite tensions over frequent incursions by Chinese troops into Indian territory.
The trip is aimed at expanding bilateral trade and removing China’s anxiety over India upgrading its border infrastructure along the 3,488-km LAC, which is said to be making Beijing increasingly wary.
The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement — which allows India to upgrade its border roads and unveils new confidence-building measures such as hotlines between the respective army headquarters and new border personnel meeting sites on the LAC — is in the final stages of discussion and may be signed during the PM’s visit.
Since Xi and Singh last met on March 27, the situation on the LAC has undergone a big change with People’s Liberation Army troops in April foraying 19 km into the Indian side in Ladakh, resulting in a 21-day face-off with Indian troops.
When he meets Xi next, Singh will assure him that the infrastructure build-up on the Indian side is just to address the huge gap between the two sides — a fact reported by Shyam Saran, chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, and admitted by defence minister AK Antony in Parliament last week.
Although Chinese media and think-tanks have made a big deal of the Indo-Tibet Border Police’s plans to set up 35 new posts along the LAC — even comparing it with Jawaharlal Nehru’s forward policy that Beijing claims led to the 1962 war — India is willing to discuss the issue threadbare as long as the PLA is upfront about the number of new posts it has constructed in the past decade.
Besides border discussions, the PM — who is also expected to meet premier Li Keqiang — is keen on talking business with China. Bilateral trade has currently hit a rough patch with a widening trade imbalance of more than $29 billion last year due to fall in Indian exports. Both sides are aiming for trade to touch $100 billion by 2015.
However, Singh will reiterate to Xi that peace on the border is an important guarantor of growth in bilateral ties and that India’s relationships with the US, Japan and Vietnam are not directed against China.
Dr S Jaishankar, the envoy to China, was in the Capital this week for consultations with the prime minister’s office and external affairs ministry on Singh’s agenda.