Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang address a joint press conference in New Delhi. ANI
Two weeks after a tense standoff was resolved between the two sides in Ladakh, India and China on Monday decided to strengthen the mechanism to avoid a repeat of the 20-day-long impasse, which strained ties, and ‘push forward’ talks for an early settlement of the border dispute.
The two countries also signed eight pacts — on trade, culture and water resources — after Chinese premier Li Keqiang, making his first foreign visit since taking office in March, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the second time in less than 24 hours after arriving in the Capital on Sunday afternoon.
Saying that New Delhi saw peace along the 4,000 km-long border as the “foundation of bilateral ties”, Singh said any disruption would impact bilateral relationship.
“Both sides believe that we need to improve the various border-related mechanisms that we have put into place and make them more efficient. We need to appropriately manage and resolve our differences,” Li said at a joint news conference with Singh.
Contentious issues such as damming of trans-border rivers and trade imbalance -- heavily tilted in favour of China -- were also taken up.
As two sides took stock of the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh's Despang Valley, Singh said the two leaders have tasked “the special representatives to consider further measures” that may be needed to maintain peace along the border.
"We agreed that our special representatives will meet soon to continue discussions, seeking early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement", Singh said. Though Li, the number two in the Chinese leadership, shared the same sentiment, India is not too excited about the draft of the border defence cooperation agreement China proposed on March 4. India is keen on area commanders resolving disputes like the one in Ladakh, which it sees as complementing the existing systems.
The special representatives for boundary talks — national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and state councillor Yang Jiechi — are to meet in Beijing in June.
Indian ambassador to China S Jaishankar termed as "sympathetic" Bejing's response to New Delhi's demand for a joint mechanism following China's plans to build two more dams on the Brahmaputra.
"I am glad that we have agreed to expand cooperation on trans-border rivers," Singh said.
A string of high-level visits have been planned ahead of PM Singh's. Defence minister AK Antony, his commerce counterpart Anand Sharma and planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will be in China for meetings as two sides look to improve ties.
"Both countries view each other as partners and not as rivals or competitors," a joint statement said.
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