China willing to keep close India ties, handle disputes: Premier Li

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Apr 20, 2016 13:19 IST
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar with Chinese counterpart Gen. Chang Wanquan inspect the guard of honour at the PLA headquarters in Beijing. (PTI)

Improving military ties between India and China and properly handling disputes will have a positive impact on the two countries’ economic and trade cooperation, Premier Li Keqiang has said, adding that good Sino-India relations are important in a conflict-ridden world with a sluggish economy.

Li made the comments as the two countries get ready for the 19th round of boundary talks in Beijing on Wednesday between designated “Special Representatives” - India’s national security adviser, AK Doval, and state councilor Yang Jiechi from China.

At a meeting with defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday, Li said he was optimistic that the armed forces of the two countries will strengthen exchanges and communication to maintain peace and stability in the long and disputed border areas.

Parrikar is on his maiden visit to China after assuming office and is the first defence minister to visit China in three years with AK Antony being the last to visit in June 2013.

Read: China to sidestep LAC mapping in border talks with NSA Doval

China, which has the biggest armed forces in the world, and India have frequent stand-offs along the disputed boundary because of differing perceptions on the dividing line or the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Touching on the military aspect of bilateral relations, Premier Li was quoted by state media as saying that he hoped the “…defence departments and armed forces of China and India strengthen exchanges, dialogue and communication to jointly maintain peace and stability in their border areas and create a good condition for the development of bilateral ties”.

“China attaches high importance to the relations with India, and is willing to keep close bilateral exchanges, strengthen strategic mutual trust, expand common interests, and properly handle disputes, so as to promote a sound and stable development of the China-India relations,” Li said.

“Facing the sluggish world economy and unceasing regional conflicts, the cooperation and common development between the two countries will be a great engine for Asia’s development and send a positive signal for world peace,” the Premier added.

The boundary dispute - currently the longest land boundary problem in the world -- has impaired relations between two of the world’s largest economies acting as an impediment to better economic relations and creating a lack of mutual trust.

“We raised the actual marking of the LAC. It was one of the processed for a real, smooth border (situation). Otherwise, there is only the perception of the border and so it causes problems. We have concerns about the issue,” Parrikar told his counterparts during his meetings in Beijing on Monday.

Read: India attaches highest importance to China ties: Parrikar in Beijing

The defence minister said because of the lack of demarcation of the border, soldiers from both sides “transgress” the LAC. Both countries, he said, were close to setting up a military-to-military hotline to quickly resolve such incidents.

Neither of the two parties expect the dispute to be resolved anytime soon but will focus on maintaining peace along the border and reducing the incidence of incursions by border troops on both sides.

The two countries fought a brief war along parts of the disputed border in 1962 which saw Chinese forces defeat the Indian military before withdrawing from captured territories.

The war, in turn, impacted relations between the two countries with New Delhi and Beijing having little official contact for decades.

“Both border security forces have once again been disturbed by face-off eventualities in the “grey areas” along the disputed border. In this regard, only thorough military-to-military high-level dialogues can address such mutual suspicions and eventualities.

“So, the military’s mutual trust is of the most significant one in bilateral relations,” Hu Shisheng, noted South Asian expert at the influential China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), told HT.

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