Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday reaffirmed the need for dialogue with both Pakistan and China to resolve outstanding issues, and said his meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao saw both sides concurring on the need to remove misunderstandings between each other.
One reflection of China's desire to narrow the areas of differences was Mr. Wen accepting Dr. Singh's invitation to visit India in the near future, during which they would attempt a practical, pragmatic and satisfactory solution to the border problem. Till the border issue was solved, the Hanoi interaction saw both Prime Ministers agreeing on the need to maintain peace and tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control.
The possible meeting between the two Prime Ministers in Delhi before the end of the year would be preceded by the arrival of senior Chinese leader Zhou Yong Kan on Sunday for a free and broad exchange of views. A few weeks later, special representatives of both countries would meet in Beijing to address the border issue.
Asked if it seemed that China was tempering its earlier aggression, Dr. Singh declined to be drawn into commenting on any such formulation.
He said he was unable to predict when the next round of Foreign Minister-level talks with Pakistan would be held, but pointed out the necessity of engaging with the country's neighbour.
“One can change friends but not neighbours. That doesn't mean we surrender or give up our vital interests. Therefore, we are obliged to engage with Pakistan,” he said.
Following his 45-minute meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Prime Minister said India-U.S. relations have entered a new phase, with understanding and desire between the two sides to bring about a qualitative change in their relationship.
In particular, the strategic and economic interests of both countries are similar. Therefore, during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India next week, both sides will attempt to explore common ground in some areas for them to work together.
Later, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon said the U.S. was positive on easing its restrictions on high-tech trade with India. However, there was no likelihood of signing three long-pending military pacts during Mr. Obama's visit.
Dr. Singh avoided commenting on topical controversies such as the Supreme Court's observation on Union Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja continuing in office despite a CBI case against him, the flats allotment controversy involving top Maharashtra politicians and senior Army officials, and the National Advisory Council's (NAC) final draft on ensuring food security to the underprivileged.
“I have not seen the Supreme Court's observations. I will look into them,” he said on the Raja issue. Asked if Mr. Raja claimed that he submitted his explanation on the 2G spectrum controversy to the Prime Minister's Office, which had given him a clean chit, Dr. Singh said he did not want to comment on a sub judice case.
On the alleged usurping of flats meant for wives of Kargil War martyrs, Dr. Singh maintained that he was not familiar with the facts of the case.
On whether he should have intervened earlier to get preparations for the Commonwealth Games on track, Dr. Singh pointed out that it would not be good for the health of the system if the Prime Minister or his office micro-managed all aspects.
“There were other Ministries and institutions who should have taken complete responsibility for the preparations,” he said.