PM meets Wen for informal talks
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday kicked-off his three-day maiden visit to China with an informal meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao as both sides grapple to find a mutually acceptable solution to the festering boundary issue.
Singh and Wen discussed a range of issues of mutual interest during their 'restricted meeting', held at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Indian Ambassador to China Nirupama Rao were also present during the parleys.
Striking a positive note before his talks, Singh said bilateral ties were now poised to enter a "vibrant and dynamic phase". "We attach high priority to strengthening our relations with China," he said adding that China was India's largest neighbour and a "focal point" of its "Look East" policy.
The vexed boundary issue is expected to figure prominently during the discussions though both sides do not expect any breakthrough at this stage. Special Representatives MK Narayanan and Dai Bingguo, senior Vice Foreign Minister, will brief the leaders on the progress in negotiations on the boundary problem.
"An early settlement of the boundary question will advance the basic interests of the two countries and should, therefore, be pursued as a strategic objective," Singh, who arrived on Sunday, said in an interview to Chinese media.
Singh, who was accorded a red carpet welcome at the Beijing international airport, will have official delegation-level talks with Wen at the Great Hall of the People on Monday.
This is Singh's first visit to China. Singh has met Wen many times in the recent past, the latest in Singapore on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in November.
Singh's visit comes amidst reports of recent Chinese intrusions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). New Delhi has said that there are differences of perception with Beijing over certain areas but both countries are committed to maintaining peace and tranquility along the border.
"There are individual areas where we think there are activities and infrastructure development. We have ways of dealing with this and it has always been successful," senior Indian officials said.
"We have worked together to maintain peace and tranquility along the border.... We do have areas where we have differences of perception. We do not see any change in the situation. The border is peaceful and has remained peaceful," they said.
Apart from Wen, Singh will call on Chinese President Hu Jintao during his three-day stay. Singh is the fifth Indian Prime Minister to visit China after Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee.
"This visit is important as it comes after a series of events which have strengthened the strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries," officials said while referring to several high level visits from both sides since last year.