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Partners, not rivals

The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers will soon have a hotline between them which they can get on to at any point to quell any misunderstanding between the two countries.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2006 17:12 IST

The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers will soon have a hotline between them which they can get on to at any point to quell any misunderstanding between the two countries.

Special representatives of both countries have been urged to move swiftly towards a resolution of the boundary dispute. The two countries will also cooperate on building energy resources and increasing trans-border linkages, which will lead to greater people-to-people contact, making the border increasingly irrelevant. A Chinese consulate will be set up in Kolkata and an Indian one in Guangzhou. The volume of trade is set to double over the next four years.

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit is an affirmation of the maturing of India-China relations. There may not have been any ‘big-ticket’ agreements but the 13 MoUs signed on Tuesday will effectively expand every aspect of the India-China relationship.

It is also apparent that, as their economic muscle develops, the two countries are seeking to downplay any suggestion of rivalry between them.

The joint declaration issued on Tuesday emphasises that the relationship between India and China “is of global and strategic significance”. “There exist bright prospects for their common development,” the declaration adds, and “they are not rivals or competitors but are partners for mutual benefit”.

There was no bonhomie on display as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Hu faced the media, sphinx-like, at Hyderabad House after their meeting, each reading out his individual statement. The milieu was distinctly low-key, with no real warmth in evidence. It was all distinctly businesslike.

India and China have adopted what they have called a ‘ten-pronged strategy’ to ensure comprehensive development of bilateral relations.

A "political push" has been given to negotiations to resolve the boundary dispute, with both leaders urging an early settlement. “The special representatives shall complete at an early date the task of finalising an appropriate framework for the final package settlement covering all sectors of the India-China boundary,” runs the joint declaration.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters: "Very soon you will be told the dates for the next meeting of the special representatives. The political push (to the negotiations process) is very clear."

The dates for the next round of talks between National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and his Chinese counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo were already being worked out, said Menon.

A senior official said that energy security and a pooling of resources -- not just in exploring sources of hydrocarbons but also in cooperating in the sphere of civil nuclear energy -- was intended to "finesse" China's largely non-committal attitude towards India's nuclear aspirations.

India will need the support of China, a key member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, before it can get a waiver to conduct civil nuclear commerce with the other nuclear 'haves' of the NSG.

The joint declaration said: "International civilian nuclear cooperation should be advanced through innovative and forward-looking approaches, while safeguarding the effectiveness of international non-proliferation principles."

The sharing of river waters figured prominently in the talks, with a decision taken to set up a mechanism, comprising experts from both countries, to act as a nodal forum to discuss all water-related issues, Menon said.

The mechanism will discuss "interaction and cooperation on the provision of flood-season hydrological data, emergency management and other issues regarding trans-border rivers".

The scope has been extended beyond the two rivers already within the ambit of talks -- the Brahmaputra (Yarlung Zangbo) and the Sutlej (Langqen Zangbo) -- to include the Parlung Zangbo and the Lohit (Zayu Qu).

Singh and Hu agreed to "revitalise and broaden the India-China Dialogue Mechanism on Counter-Terrorism" to jointly combat terrorism, separatism and extremism, and the linkages between terrorism and organised crime.

China refused -- unlike Britain and France -- to come out openly to make a pitch for India's candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Instead, the joint declaration said: "China attaches great importance to the status of India in international affairs. It understands and supports India's aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations."

First Published: Nov 22, 2006 17:12 IST