Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao met at Cha-Am Hua Hin in Thailand today to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern against the backdrop of the war of words between the two neighbours over Arunachal Pradesh.
Singh, who arrived here on Friday, and Wen held crucial bilateral talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in this Thai beach resort.
In his opening remarks during the meeting, Wen said "we want to have healthy and steady relationship with India." Prime Minister Singh congratulated Wen on 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
Their meeting came as the two countries struck conciliatory notes after provocative statements from China on Arunachal Pradesh evoked a sharp reaction from India.
China regards Arunachal Pradesh a disputed territory and objected to Prime Minister Singh's visit there for assembly polls, triggering sharp reaction from India which asserted that the state is an integral part of the country.
"Bilateral relationship will be in focus," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said last night ahead of the meeting between Singh and Wen.
Rao said the relationship between the two countries is a "complex one" though it has "developed in many areas" in recent years.
"You are aware of the outstanding issues that remain to be resolved between India and China and obviously in meetings of this nature, especially meetings between leadership at the highest level, there is an opportunity to address all these issues," Rao said.
While receiving Singh warmly at the venue of the meeting in Dusit Thani hotel, Wen described him as an old friend and recalled their several previous meetings. "In the years ahead we are confident that we will have good relations," the Chinese Premier said.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Prime Minister's Principal Secretary TKA Nair and Joint Secretary (East Asia) N Ravi attended the meeting from the Indian side.
Other issues which recently led to a verbal spat between the two fastest growing economies in the world included China issuing visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir on loose sheets. India had also said that the Chinese developmental activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were not in the interest of the Sino-India ties.
Concerns have also been expressed, especially by the north-eastern states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, over reports of China building dams on its side of the river Brahmputra.
However, in the last few days conciliatory tones were heard from both New Delhi and Beijing. Senior functionaries of both the countries said the border issue could be resolved by dialogue.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue had said in Beijing on Wednesday that Wen and Singh would discuss "bilateral relations and regional and international issues" during their meeting.
"This meeting between the two Prime Ministers is a very important one," Hu had said. "There has been good progress in our bilateral relationship and we hope this momentum can be sustained."
Prime Minister Singh has a busy schedule for the next two days with seven bilateral engagements, including a meeting with Japanese Premier Yukio Hotoyama, apart from attending India-ASEAN meet and East Asia Summit.