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Immediate border solution "unrealistic": Chinese media

The state media said but cautioned that it was "unrealistic" to expect a solution to the festering boundary issue from a single meeting.

world Updated: Jan 14, 2008 18:22 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first visit to China after a "wait" of more than a year was "a good opportunity to strengthen ties", the state media said but cautioned that it was "unrealistic" to expect a solution to the festering boundary issue from a single meeting.

"The border issue has always been on the agenda when Chinese and Indian leaders meet. A relic of the two countries' past, settlement of the issue will depend on wisdom, vision and flexibility. It is unrealistic to expect a solution from a single meeting," China Daily, the communist nation's leading English language newspaper, commented.

Singh's previous visit was cancelled at the last minute in June 2006 when he was to attend the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Beijing-based regional security grouping, it said.

India's hopes for a "breakthrough" on a border issue especially that the "Chinese side would accept a solution described as maintaining the status quo with minor adjustments" were blamed for the delay in Singh's visit, Hu Shisheng, a researcher, wrote in an opinion piece in the daily.

"The reason for this (dealy of visit) could be 'too many expectations'. The two governments expected a great deal from Singh's China trip when he agreed to come, hoping to make some breakthroughs on bilateral issues of significance."

The Chinese side hoped to sign a bilateral free trade pact or a regional trade arrangement, Hu, with think-tank China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said, adding neither side "is fully prepared for a breakthrough the other is hoping for".

The two giant neighbours have yet to commit to holding annual bilateral summit meetings. The last Indian president, Abdul Kalam, never visited China during his five-year term in office. As for Prime Minister Singh, this is his fourth year in office but his first trip to China, Hu said.

Reciprocal visits between top leaders are particularly important for China and India to improve their bilateral ties, because exchanges between the two peoples have not been smooth despite the fact they are neighbours.

Hu, however, said that the delay in Singh's visit must not be viewed in negative light as it has actually spurred the two sides to explore and advance in other areas of their bilateral ties.

Noting the "significant progress" in China-India relations, particularly in security, the article said last month, the two armies conducted their first joint military exercise, turning a "staring match" into a "handshake", as both sides put aside their 1962 border war.

Even on such tough issues as border demarcation and bilateral trade, the two nations have managed to make some encouraging progress in the past year, Hu said.

The two sides agreed to form a joint working group that would build a framework for resolving the border issue, thus putting efforts on track toward a real solution.

Pointing that two Chinese premiers and their Indian counterparts have paid each other official visits during their terms in office in recent years, Hu said it shows bilateral ties have indeed been put on a positive track.

However, the current pace of high-level reciprocal visits between the two sides still needs to be stepped up as the two build a strategic
partnership as fast-rising powers.

As the two peoples get to know each other better, bilateral ties will develop more smoothly and some of the thorny issues will be resolved easily, he said.