India and China are being seen as major powers of the 21st century, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed to the Chinese leadership that differences should not be allowed to affect functional cooperation in other areas and peace and tranquillity needed to be maintained, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on Wednesday.

Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha, he said the relations had improved in various areas, including business and defence. Defence contact had increased, and the third defence cooperation dialogue would be held next month for a better understanding between the two armed forces.

President Pratibha Patil would visit Beijing next year, and he himself would go there next year to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties, Mr. Krishna said. In the economic field, he said India was pressing China for greater access to its market for goods and services and Beijing assured New Delhi that it would address these concerns. Importantly, bilateral trade had touched a new high of $52 billion and the target was to reach $60 billion by next year, though the growing trade deficit was a matter of concern. It had been discussed at the Prime Ministerial level.

Talking about Sino-India relations of the last 60 years, Mr. Krishna said the two countries have had “good ties” and “at times strained relations.”

Participating in the debate, Khagen Das (CPI-M) suggested that Sino-Indian relations be handled delicately for ensuring peace and prosperity in Asia.

He said the current China policy of the government was in the right direction and said the border dispute would have to be settled through talks. “The two countries must grow peacefully with mutual respect for and tolerance of each other.” The two countries could be powerful stabilising forces for the world.

Asserting that Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim were integral parts of India, Mr. Das said Tibet was part of China. He said there were global powers that were trying to create tensions in the Sino-Indian ties so that the two countries remained suspicious of each other.

“No demarcation”

Sandeep Dikshit (Congress) said India need not be scared of China. “The only problem is that unlike other parts, the border with China has never been completely demarcated,” he said, adding the government was making efforts to resolve the issue. “Our Army is not weak. If anybody looks at us, they will get a befitting reply.”

Prabodh Panda (CPI) said the two countries had successfully strengthened diplomatic and economic relations over time despite differences in certain areas. The boundary dispute had been handed down by history.

Initiating the debate, Murli Manohar Joshi (BJP) said the borders of the country were to be defended and not discussed, and called for a political consensus on the China policy.

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