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India, China vow to end long-running border dispute
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) May 20, 2013


India and China boost border peace efforts
New Delhi (UPI) May 21, 2013 - China's Premier Li Keqiang and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to step up discussions to end their long-running Himalayan region border disputes.

Li, during his official three-day visit to India, said the two countries had "established principles for settling the question" of where the border should lie, The Hindustan Times reported.

The goal is to avoid disagreements that in the past have threatened to spill over into armed clashes.

"Both sides believe we need to improve the border mechanisms that have been put into place and make them more efficient and appropriately resolve our differences," Li said on his first foreign trip since taking office in March.

"On the basis of deeper trust, our two countries can further deepen our mutual understanding and construct a new type of relationship between major countries, promote healthy and sound development of China and India.

"World peace ... can't be a reality without strategic trust between India and China," he said. "That will be a true blessing for Asia and the world."

Singh said during the joint press conference that special representatives from both countries will meet soon to continue discussions "seeking an early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement."

Singh said "peace and tranquility on our border has to be preserved."

Neither leader mentioned the latest dispute in April when Chinese patrols in the Ladakh region moved about 12 miles into what India claims as its side of the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border in the rugged Himalayan region.

The Chinese set up camp around 500 feet from an Indian patrol camp and continued a face-off.

There were no reports of hostilities and the move was suspected only to raise the wider issue of demarcation, which has suffered from "difference of perception between India and China," an Indian official reportedly said during the dispute in April.

However, the faceoff was enough for New Delhi to send India's foreign minister to Beijing for discussions, likely with a view to smoothing the impending visit to India of the Chinese premier.

The Himalayan region has been the focus of several armed conflicts since 1947 when the British quit the subcontinent, creating India and Pakistan out of the colonial territories.

China and India fought a brief indecisive war over the region's ill-defined border in 1962 and the two countries since have carefully patrolled the region.

But border issues have been more intense with Pakistan to the west, including military clashes in 1947, 1965 and 1999.

India and Pakistan agreed on a Kashmir cease-fire line in 2003 although Pakistan claims all of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, which is around 60 percent Muslim -- India's only Muslim majority state.

Li arrived in New Delhi on Sunday and will be meeting Foreign Minister Salaman Khurshid, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and senior figures from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, The Hindustan Times said.

He will head off to India's financial center Mumbai today in an effort to reassure the value of doing business with China, India's second-largest trading partner.

India-China trade was around $66.5 billion last year, a drop from $74 billion in 2011.

Even so, trade remains targeted to reach $100 billion by 2015, Chinese vice commerce minister Jiang Yaoping told reporters last week.

But India also faces an increasing trade deficit with China, reaching around $29 billion last year, The Hindustan Times report said.

Li's next stop is Pakistan before visiting Switzerland and Germany.

Despite the smiles between the two leaders, tensions will remain in the wake of Li's visit, a report by the BBC said.

The Indian and Chinese premiers pledged on Monday to resolve a border dispute that has soured ties for decades, saying good relations between the two Asian giants were key to world peace.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, making his first foreign visit since taking office, said that Beijing was determined to build up trust with New Delhi as he and a team of ministers signed a series of joint agreements with India.

His host, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also stressed he regarded a good bilateral relationship as crucial to the wider region's development.

Li's visit comes after a flare-up last month in a long-running border dispute between the two countries in a remote Himalayan region.

New Delhi accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.

The Line of Actual Control between the nuclear-armed neighbours has never been formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace since the border region saw a brief Indo-Chinese war in 1962.

Singh said there was now a mutual desire to resolve the dispute and that a joint working group would be established to reach a lasting agreement.

"We agreed that our special representatives will meet soon to continue discussions seeking an early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement," Singh said after talks with Li.

"Peace and tranquillity on our border has to be preserved," the Indian leader added at a joint news conference in New Delhi.

Li said the border dispute was a historical hangover and that there was a desire on both sides to overcome it.

"We have established the principles for settling the question," Li said.

"Both sides believe we need to improve the border mechanisms that have been put into place and make them more efficient.. and appropriately resolve our differences.

"The two sides should continue to advance the negotiations on the boundary question and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area," he added.

Speaking earlier, Li had said that good relations between India and China would "be a true blessing for Asia and the world".

"World peace... cannot be a reality without strategic trust between India and China," he added.

India's envoy to China later told reporters that the boundary issue was complicated and both countries would study the mechanisms that are currently in place to deal with it.

"The two prime ministers agreed that it (the issue) needed a detailed examination and that is what the special representatives have been charged with," S. Jaishankar told reporters at a briefing on the visit.

The comments followed signing ceremonies on a series of issues ranging from agriculture to tourism and trade.

There was also an agreement to resolve a dispute over a Chinese plan to build three more hydropower dams across the cross-border Brahmaputra river, known in China as the Yarlung Tsangpo.

Singh said he had raised Indian concerns about the Chinese activities "on the upper reaches of our shared rivers".

Li was also scheduled to meet foreign minister Salman Khurshid, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and senior figures from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party before heading Tuesday to India's financial hub, Mumbai.

China is a key India trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling $66.5 billion last year, and the two countries are hoping that figure will reach $100 billion by 2015.

Several major roads in the Indian capital were closed to prevent Tibetan protesters from disrupting Li's visit, and exile groups complained of heavy-handed policing in their neighbourhoods.

Police detained three Tibetan protesters near the luxury Taj Palace in the Indian capital where the Chinese premier was staying, an AFP photographer said.

After wrapping up his visit to India, Li is due to travel to neighbouring Pakistan before heading to Switzerland and Germany.

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