India and China on Wednesday signed an agreement to set up a hot line to open up direct communication between their Prime Ministers, but appeared to continue to speak in different languages on key issues that continue to challenge the bilateral relationship.

In talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Premier Wen Jiabao, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna called for China to review its position on India's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He also voiced India's concerns over Chinese support to development projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters that China reiterated its earlier position on the UNSC, voiced during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China in 2008, that China “understands and supports India's aspirations to play an active role in the U.N. and international affairs.”

This is the same position China has held since Mr. Wen's visit to India in 2005, suggesting there was little or no progress on this front.

Ms. Rao said India also gave China “the full picture” of its opposition to Chinese projects in PoK, which Indian officials see as China supporting Pakistan's claims to areas it views as disputed. “The Chinese position is that the issue of outstanding differences that exist on Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan should be resolved between these two countries… and what they do in PoK is without prejudice to this position of theirs,” she said, indicating the Chinese policy was unlikely to change.

The Foreign Secretary said India also “underlined the need for more sensitivity to be shown to Indian concerns” over the issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir, but this remained “a subject of on-going discussion.” “That is where it stands at the moment,” Ms. Rao said.

The reported hacking attacks by China-based hackers on India's Ministry of Defence and several embassies did not figure in Wednesday's talks, though Ms. Rao said India was “concerned” by the reports. “Cyber security is of paramount importance and we will of course take all necessary steps to safeguard our assets against such attacks.”

Progress in ties

Despite the persisting differences on several issues, Indian and Chinese officials said they were satisfied with the overall positive tenor of the discussions, saying it reflected important progress following the strains seen last year.

Indian officials said expecting immediate progress on these issues was unrealistic, and that the two sides had at least had a chance to clearly convey their concerns. “We go back with an enhanced level of understanding and clarity on each other's positions, and the determination to step up our level of exchanges,” Ms. Rao said.

On Wednesday, the two countries formalised an agreement to set up a hot line between Dr. Singh and Mr. Wen, which was agreed to in June last, when Dr. Singh met President Hu Jintao in Yekaterinburg.

“[This hot line] shows how close we are getting with each other,” Mr. Krishna told reporters after his morning's talks with Mr. Yang. “This has been one of the highlights of my visit to China.”