Evaluating the pluses and minuses of the visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, highly placed sources expressed satisfaction over the incremental progress achieved on some issues given the two constraints that India was saddled with.

The first was that this visit was proposed by China. In fact, the suggestion was made by the Chinese Premier when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in late October. “The intention was to avoid accidents. The visit was on Chinese initiative. We didn't have to do anything,” they said.

The second constraint was the little time available to prepare for the visit against the backdrop of several issues of complexity whose resolution is bound to take time. “It was decided almost at the fag end of October and we got the dates only around mid-November. Preparations went on till the last minute. Considering the paucity of time, both sides can be considered to have made progress on several issues,” other Government sources said.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao warded off queries as to why no joint press conference was held. She asked newspersons not to “read too much into it.” There was a joint communiqué, agreements were signed, and “we are trying to give all the information you would be interested in.”

With Dr. Singh and Mr. Wen meeting for the 11th time, Ms. Rao saw “strong personal chemistry and a very positive rapport that permeated the talks.” The personal relationship between the two leaders was also reflected when the Prime Minister hosted a working dinner on Wednesday night, she added.

“The idea of the meeting was really to keep the relationship going without necessarily doing anything major for now,” a senior official told TheHindu. “This is not a relationship that can take a great leap forward since it is already a full spectrum relationship.”

But the official pointed to the new areas like maritime security — where India and China will examine cooperation for the first time — as signs of greater bilateral understanding. Appreciating the warmth and sincerity which came through in Premier Wen Jiabao's interactions — especially his speech to the Indian Council of World Affairs — the official said India and China had a relationship that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Crediting Mr. Wen for taking the initiative in 2005 to improve Sino-Indian ties, Ms. Rao said the bilateral relationship has undergone a major transformation since then. “[The] political understanding [between Dr. Singh and Mr. Wen] has created a framework for cooperation that has grown significantly.”

Ms. Rao was not inclined to agree with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yan's formulation that India-China ties are fragile.

“I think I would argue that India-China ties have become stronger. The foundation has become more stable. But there is a tendency in the media to focus on certain angles and give prominence to them. We practitioners trying to develop India-China ties feel the interaction is far more stable and foundations are stronger than 20 years back. I see this as gradual evolution and don't subscribe to the extreme judgement that one issue of complexity can shake the relations or its foundations.”

At the same time, she said the intention was not to detract from the professional capability of the Chinese Ambassador.

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