Issues from Tibet to trade figure in talks in Beijing

Top Chinese leaders told visiting President Pratibha Patil on Friday they were ready for “a new starting point” to improve relations between the two countries, after six decades of ups and downs.

But Friday's talks also underscored the difficulties the two countries face in their efforts to start afresh, with issues that had challenged the relationship in the past, from Tibet to trade, expectedly finding mention.

Chinese officials sought “a reiteration” of India's position that it recognised Tibet as a part of China and did not permit “anti-China activities by any Tibetans resident” on the Indian soil, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said. The issue, Indian officials said, routinely figured in most bilateral talks.

The Foreign Secretary still described the overall outcome of two days of discussions between President Patil and China's five most high-ranking leaders as “extremely positive.” “The discussions held over the last two days with the highest levels of the Chinese leadership by our President have been very fruitful … productive and meaningful, and both sides have clearly stated their desire to take the 60th anniversary year as a starting point to further build on the relationship,” Ms. Rao told reporters.

On Friday, Ms. Patil held talks with China's Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is widely tipped to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012, and Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the country's fourth highest-ranked leader.

Mr. Xi told Ms. Patil that the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties “could be seen as a new starting point to further develop and uplift our relations between the two countries,” Ms. Rao quoted him as saying.

The Foreign Secretary said that during the two days of talks, Chinese leaders repeatedly called for both closer “co-operation” and “coordination” between the two countries on multilateral issues, including climate change and trade.

Expected points of disagreement, however, also found mention. On Tibet, Mr. Jia urged the President to reiterate India's position that it did not allow “anti-China” activities.

“As it happens in the course of discussions between India and China all issues are raised,” Ms. Rao said. “This is, as you know, a complex relationship where there are many issues on which the two sides have sought greater awareness of each other's positions. It was in this context that the issue of Tibet also came up.”

Ms. Patil raised long-pending market access issues Indian companies faced in China. She sought greater access for Information Technology and pharmaceutical companies, and for China to address the fast-widening trade imbalance.

The President said “mutual awareness about each other and mutual understanding of each other's sensitivities” was key to improving relations.

“Amazing achievements”

“Even in my short stay, I have been impressed by the amazing achievements of China on many fronts,” she said, addressing the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. “This only confirms the prevalent belief in India that much can be learnt from experiences of China, which is a similarly placed emerging economy, with similar aspirations.”

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