India and China took a cautious yet optimistic step forward on Tuesday, laying the foundation for shedding the burden of their unresolved boundary with a pact to keep “peace and tranquality” along the border and pledging to realise the “full promise” of their partnership and share “the friendliest of relations”.
At the end of three-hour-long discussions between visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Li Keqiang, the two sides signed nine pacts including the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement and agreed to focus on strengthening relationship between the two Asian giants, home to one-third of humanity.
“The moment is ripe… We have charted (the) course for the future. We need to stand tall and look far. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Chinese President Xi Jinping later told Singh after hearing him speak about how the “Chinese and Indian dreams were interconnected and mutually compatible”.
Li and Singh had earlier in the day agreed that peace on the border must remain the foundation for growth in relationship even as the negotiations on the boundary question continued. “This is our strategic benchmark,” Singh said at a media conference with Premier Li by his side at the Great Hall of the People minutes after the nine pacts were signed.
Significantly, the two premiers also decided to shape their relations with third countries in a way that they did not become a source of concern for Beijing or Delhi.
The border pact - the first concrete initiative since 2005 – not only restricts border patrols from tailing each other and requires them to exercise maximum restraint when they come face to face with the other side but also enhance understanding amongst defence force personnel deployed in the field.
Setting the tone early in the day, Li started the formal talks thanking Singh for saving 17 Chinese sailors from a cargo ship which sank in the Bay of Bengal due to Cyclone Phailin.
Li described the agreement on signing of agreements on three sister cities as “a new breakthrough in the bilateral friendly exchange” that will promote local and people-to-people cooperation between the two countries.
Both Xi and Li hosted banquets in Singh’s honour where exchanges continued over stir-fried lobster, codfish in Sichuan sauce, crisp duck rolls, pastries and fruit platters.
Visibly pleased at the direction, outcome and contents of the talks, foreign secretary Sujatha Singh said the two leaders discussed the entire gamut of issues, right from the boundary issue and terrorism in the neighbourhood to trade deficit that the prime minister called “unsustainable”.
Li said China and India will make 2014 a Year of Friendly Exchange and discuss with Myanmar also how to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, known in India as the Panchsheel Treaty.
Read More: Full text of the border agreement
China's Premier Li Keqiang shows the way to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.(Reuters Photo)
Highlights of India-China joint statement:
What PM Manmohan Singh said:
• Delighted to be in Beijing once again at the invitation of Li Keqiang.
• Li and I have just concluded a very productive round of talks.
• We have agreed that prosperity and progress of Indian and Chinese people will be a major factor of global prosperity.
• We have agreed peace and tranquility must be the foundation of growth for both sides. This will be our strategic benchmark.
• The border defence pact that we have just signed will add to existing agreements to ensure peace on our borders.
• Determined to inject new dynamism in our economic cooperation.
• India-China CEOs forum was also meeting in Beijing in China while I had talks with Li.
• I hope that China will help facilitate visits of Indian nationals to China.
• Agreements and MoUs signed today in various areas - defence, road transport, trans-border rivers, power will build on our cooperation.
• When India and China shake hands, the world notices.
• I look forward to my other engagements with the Chinese leadership.
What Chinese premier Li Keqiang said:
• Express sympathies for the death and loss caused due to cyclone Phailin.
• Like to pay high tribute to the enormous economic and social progress made under the leadership of Manmohan.
• I also appreciate the efforts made by Manmohan Singh to better ties between China and India.
• I chose India as my first overseas destination after becoming the Chinese Premier.
• We have just had frank, sincere talks with India and have signed agreements in various fields.
• We discussed ways to boost political relations and mutual cooperation.
• Both sides have agreed to maintain high level visits.
• We have signed the border agreement, and we hope to maintain peace, tranquility and stability in border areas.
• Two sides have also agreed to hold counter terrorism training in China as well as work together to tackle terror.
• In the area of trade, we have agreed to make full use of existing mechanisms.
• Will also help India to set up industrial zones in the country as well as work on the India-Bangladesh-Myanmar-China corridor.