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Updated: December 22, 2010 03:01 IST

China positive on Wen visit, but silent over Kashmir differences

Ananth Krishnan
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during their meeting in New Delhi. File Photo
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during their meeting in New Delhi. File Photo

Visits to India and Pakistan "a major diplomatic move of China bearing a far-reaching strategic significance," says Chinese Foreign Minister

The Chinese government said on Tuesday the Kashmir issue was for India and Pakistan to “properly settle” when asked if differences with India over China’s stance on Kashmir had emerged as a sticking point during Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent visit to New Delhi.

"As a neighbouring country and friend to India and Pakistan, China hopes the two countries can properly settle the [Kashmir] issue through dialogue and consultations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said at a regular briefing.

"As we’ve repeatedly said,” Ms. Jiang noted, “this is an issue left over from history for India and Pakistan.”

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi described Mr. Wen’s visits to India and Pakistan as “a major diplomatic move of China bearing a far-reaching strategic significance.”

But during the Chinese Premier’s visit to New Delhi, the two countries failed to reach an agreement over China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir, a move seen by India as China questioning Indian sovereignty.

In the joint communiqué issued by the two sides following the talks, India even refrained from repeating its standard statement of support for the “One China policy” and China’s positions on Tibet, stressing that mutual sensitivity was required for both countries’ core concerns.

The two countries were also unable to reach an agreement on defence exchanges, which remain suspended after China objected to a visit in July by the chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command, saying the “sensitive” region of Kashmir was under his jurisdiction.

The two countries did, however, sign a slew of business deals, estimated at around $ 16 billion.

Chinese officials on Tuesday described Mr. Wen’s visits to both countries as “rich in content” and “fruitful in results.”

"India and Pakistan are both major countries in South Asia and major neighbours to China,” Ms. Jiang said, adding that the visits “will contribute to building good-neighbourliness” and “peace and stability in neighbouring areas.”

"The development of China-India and China-Pakistan relations are of great importance to peace and prosperity of South Asia, the rest of Asia and the world as a whole,” she added.

Mr. Yang, the Foreign Minister, said on Monday the visits had “enhanced two-way strategic partnerships with India and Pakistan, which presented China as a responsible country committed to good-neighbourliness, unity and cooperation with its neighbors,” Xinhua reported.

In an interview with the official broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday, Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar said Mr. Wen’s visit had yielded progress in several areas, most notably, in trade, with the two sides setting a $ 100 billion target for 2015.

"Let me make a prediction. We will reach the goal much faster than 2015,” he told CCTV, according to a report in the Press Trust of India (PTI).

"We heard directly from the Prime Minister [Wen Jiabao] himself that China would be more open” in areas such as pharmaceuticals and Information Technology where India was pushing for greater market access, he said.

In the interview, he also played down fears over border tensions. “The most important development so far is that borders remained peaceful and tranquil, and that we have agreements in 1993, 1996 and 2005 to ensure nothing goes wrong at the borders,” he said.

On the stapled visas issue, he said India and China had agreed to “appropriately resolve” the problem.

"This caused a lot public resentment in India,” he said. “Here again, it was candidly discussed. There was an understanding that officials will meet and this would be appropriately resolved. Few months from now if I am sitting with you I might give you a more positive outlook on this issue.”

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