Ahead of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India on Sunday, China has said it was “working very hard” with India to find a solution to the boundary dispute at an early date, but stressed that it did not see the recent border tensions as affecting the larger relationship.

Officials here suggested that the fast-growing trade relationship between the two countries was likely to receive more attention next week than the boundary question as Mr. Li, the second-ranked leader, visits New Delhi and Mumbai, accompanied by a large business delegation.

The Chinese Premier will leave here for New Delhi on Sunday on what will be his first overseas visit after he took over in March. After a three-day visit to New Delhi and Mumbai, Mr. Li will travel to Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao told reporters here on Thursday that “the fact that Premier Li has chosen India as one of the countries on his first overseas trip shows the importance the new Chinese government attaches to China-India relations”.

Mr. Li will have talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee and other leaders, Mr. Song said. He will also make a speech on India-China relations and attend a business summit in Mumbai.

Overlapping interests

While there were “historical issues” between India and China such as the boundary question, there was “a consensus between two countries, and the leaders, that we have more overlapping interests than competition”, Mr. Song stressed.

“We have the wisdom and resourcefulness to properly manage differences, and we have the ability to prevent differences from affecting the overall growth of China-India relations,” he said.

Both sides are currently holding consultations to finalise agreements that will be announced during the visit, which begins on Sunday.

Among 16 agreements proposed by the Chinese side is a border defence cooperation agreement, which is understood to be a comprehensive proposal that looks to incorporate earlier border agreements signed between the two countries.

Agreements

India and China signed agreements in 1993 and 1996 to maintain peace and tranquillity and to put in place confidence building measures along the Line of Actual Control. In 2005, both countries reached an understanding on political parameters and guiding principles on the boundary question.

Mr. Song declined to go into specifics about the proposal, but said, “We have both been working very hard to find a solution to the border issue at an early date”.

“We have a number of mechanisms available to us for resolving the boundary question, such as the Special Representatives consultations,” he said. “Through concerted efforts of the two sides, we have made constant progress in addressing the issue, and peace and tranquillity in border areas has been maintained.”

Three-stage process

“We have signed political parameters for the boundary question and we have reached consensus on a framework for settling the issue,” he added, referring to an agreed upon 18-point consensus. Both sides are currently negotiating on a framework to settle the dispute in all sectors — seen as the most difficult of a three-stage process. The first stage involved political parameters, and the final stage will see a delineation of the border in maps and on the ground.

Mr. Song said China “has settled boundary disputes with many of its neighbours” and was “committed to resolving the boundary question with India through friendly consultations”. “We will work with the Indian side to make full use of available mechanisms together to find a fair, reasonable solution acceptable to both sides,” he said. “Of course, pending final settlement of the boundary question, it is also important to ensure peace and tranquillity on border regions”.

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