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Updated: May 28, 2010 02:00 IST

Pratibha seeks China backing for permanent UNSC seat

Vidya Subrahmaniam
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President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by China's Premier Wen Jiabao during a meeting in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: AP
President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by China's Premier Wen Jiabao during a meeting in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: AP

In a first for a visiting head of state, President Pratibha Patil on Thursday sought China's backing for a permanent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat for India. Ms. Patil raised India's Security Council ambitions in her talks with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and again during the summit meeting with President Hu Jintao.

In response, the Chinese leadership said China understood and supported India's “aspirations and desire to play a greater role in the U.N., especially in the Security Council.” As a follow-up to this, both sides agreed that the neighbours should “strengthen their co-operation on Security Council reforms,” working specifically towards expanding the representation of developing countries.

On the same forum, China announced that it would back India's candidature for non-permanent membership of the UNSC in the election coming up later this year.

Briefing the media on the talks between Ms. Patil and the Chinese leadership, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao emphasised that the discussions took place in a “very cordial and extremely positive atmosphere.” Journalists raised a host of questions on the UNSC issue. Among them: Was China being overly “guarded and diplomatic” in its response to India's openly stated UNSC aspirations?” Did the Chinese position really constitute a forward movement from the past?

Ms. Rao was categorical that China was positive about engaging with India on its UNSC quest: “Theirs is an increasing awareness of our aspirations, they want to stay with us on this issue” She said India had brought up the subject at a time of growing international support for UNSC reforms. “This is an opportune moment for establishing perfect communication on this issue,” she said.

Asked if the reference to the UNSC seat and the response to it could be seen as a “big outcome” of the talks, Ms. Rao advised caution against over-interpretation of a relationship that was evolving gradually. She said post-Copenhagen, there was a perceptible warmth between the two countries; so much so the co-operation was prominently mentioned at the summit.

Ms. Rao said it had emerged very clearly in the meetings between Ms. Patil and the Chinese leadership that India and China regarded the bilateral relationship as “a “diplomatic priority.” The fact that the summit coincided with the 60th anniversary of India-China diplomatic relationship provided the perfect setting for both leaderships to resolve to consolidate the “Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (SCPPP)” established in 2005.

Ms. Rao said the two sides reviewed bilateral trade relations, noting that though China was now India's largest trading partner, the adverse trade balance needed correction. Ms. Patil pressed the need to address this adverse balance through increase in volume as well as diversification of the trade basket to include India's expertise in engineering, pharmaceutical and IT enabled products.

The discussions noted the steady progress on the resolution of the boundary dispute, with both countries affirming to maintain peace and tranquillity on the borders pending a satisfactory solution.

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