Krishna reiterates India's support to China on Tibet amid recent unrest in Sichuan

Indian and Chinese leaders on Wednesday laid out a new roadmap for bilateral ties, calling for a “flexible” and “imaginative” approach in 2012 to minimise the effect of persisting political irritants, such as the border dispute and Tibet.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who on Wednesday evening inaugurated India's new $10-million embassy, which he described as turning “a new page” in ties, underscored India's willingness to calm sources of tension. He particularly stressed in unusually strong terms New Delhi's support to Beijing on the Tibetan issue, amid ongoing unrest in Sichuan province that has seen at least 16 self-immolation protests by Tibetans in the past year and clashes last month with police forces that have left at least two killed and dozens injured.

This week, Beijing blamed overseas Tibetan groups, some based in Dharamsala, and exiled religious leader the Dalai Lama for fanning flames of unrest. While India reiterated that the Dalai Lama was “an honoured guest” of India and his activities were not political, Mr. Krishna reaffirmed India's support to the ‘One China' policy, officials said.

“It is the government of India's position that the Tibet Autonomous Region is part of the People's Republic of China, and as a result of that we are dealing with the internal affairs of China,” Mr. Krishna told journalists.

“Hence we will have to be very cautious, and any help that we can render to ease the tension we are willing to do it but I don't think that situation will arise.”

Mr. Krishna met four high-ranking Chinese officials on Wednesday — a rare event for a visiting Minister, officials said, suggesting a reflection of a new impetus from Beijing to get ties on the right track in 2012.

Zhou Yongkang, China's ninth-highest ranked politician and Communist Party of China (CPC) Standing Committee Polit Bureau member, told Mr. Krishna that the Tibet issue “concerns the core interest” of China. He said the Chinese government “appreciates the firm support of the Indian government over this issue,” adding that China “firmly penalises according to law” separatist activities.

Mr. Zhou described the opening of the new embassy building as “an auspicious event in the year of the dragon.” China celebrated the start of the new dragon year on January 23.

Mr. Krishna also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, State Councillor Dai Bingguo and Wang Jiarui, head of the CPC's International Department.

Yiwu traders' case

Mr. Krishna said he raised the case of two Indian traders in the town of Yiwu, who were illegally detained by Chinese businessmen, accused of owing 10 million RMB ($1.58 million). The traders, who will stand trial on March 1, told The Hindu in a recent interview they wanted Mr. Krishna to raise the issue and ensure a fair trial.

Mr. Krishna met briefly with the two traders, who had travelled here from Shanghai on Tuesday night. “I empathised with them regarding their traumatic experience and raised the matter with my Chinese counterpart,” he said. “The Indian mission will provide all assistance in resolving this issue.”

Mr. Krishna denied media reports that New Delhi had objected to the visit by the Vice-Governor of Zhejiang province, where Yiwu is located, to Gujarat. “[There is] nothing like prevention as such,” he said. “I think dates are being finalised.”

However, sources said New Delhi believed the timing of the visit was unsuitable considering their displeasure with the way provincial authorities handled the Yiwu case. “If you maltreat our businessmen, you are sending a bad signal,” an official said. “The fact is that we didn't get much assistance from Zhejiang provincial authorities.”

The two countries, which have recently held similar positions on global issues, discussed their recently differing positions on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote on Syria.

China stressed it held similar views on India, focusing on political stability and not regime change. Officials appeared concerned about China's isolation with Russia on the issue, hinting at unease over the vote and stressing the commonality of Chinese positions with India on most issues.

“We noted that we have taken divergent stands on the UNSC but nonetheless we would like the Syrian question to be peacefully resolved by all parties concerned,” Mr. Krishna said.

Mr. Krishna stressed that the overall tenor of talks was positive, with both countries deciding on Wednesday to mark 2012 as a year of friendship and cooperation.

“We also reviewed the outstanding issues in our bilateral relations, and agreed that while we work to resolve them we should not let them adversely affect the growing cooperation in other areas,” he said.

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