India and China remain divided on major sensitive issues including Chinese visas and the border, but the neighbours came closer on Wednesday with an agreement to open a hotline for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao to hold direct talks.
“The hotline signifies that we have brought this relationship closer,’’ said Wen, at the start of a 45-minute meeting with India’s external affairs minister S.M. Krishna in Beijing.
“In a word, this is the Friendship Year of India-China relations,’’ said the Premier as he expressed hope for more bilateral meetings on the sidelines of global summits.
The bilateral talks were held againt the symbolic backdrop of the sixtieth anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two largest Asian nations.
“We go back with an enhanced level of understanding and clarity on our positions and determination to step up our relationship,’’ said foreign secretary Nirupama Rao.
But some issues critical to India remained unresolved at the end of the meetings with Wen and foreign minister Yang Jiechi. Rao said India had made it clear that it does not accept stapled Chinese visas issued to Indian passport holders in Kashmir. Foreign minister Yang declined to comment on the visa controversy but said he was sure the bilateral relationship would move forward.
India conveyed the ‘full picture’ of ‘concerns’ on Chinese construction of infrastructure in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. “The Chinese position is that what China does in PoK is without prejudice and that India-Pakistan should solve issues through dialogue,’’ said Rao.
Beijing announced that Singh and President Hu Jintao will meet on the sidelines of the Brazil-Russia-India-China summit in Brazil later this month.