India, China keen to take the relationship forward in new spheres

India and China expressed a strong desire to resolve pending issues and take the relationship forward in new spheres, such as civil nuclear energy, during two rounds of discussions here on Sunday evening and Monday morning between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The interaction, taking place against the backdrop of a mini-security blanket around a portion of Lutyens’ Delhi to thwart attempts by Tibetan exiles to stage protests, attracted worldwide attention, coming as it did after a three-week face-to-face standoff between troops of the two Asian giants.

A joint statement, however, did not mention Tibet, a staple of joint communiqués China issues with every country. India had last done away with the inclusion of the T- word in 2010 and officials maintained there was no need to bring in Tibet when Beijing was aware of New Delhi’s stance about the region being an inalienable part of China.

In restricted and delegation-level discussions totalling three hours, the two leaders decided to entrust the task of ensuring incidents like Depsang do not reoccur to the two Special Representatives (SRs), who have also been asked to speed up work on demarcating and delineating the border by trying to achieve closure on the second of the three-stage process of resolving the border question.

“We also took stock of lessons learnt from the recent incident in the Depsang sector, when the existing mechanism proved its worth,” explained the Prime Minister in a media statement. .

Mr. Li said both sides “believe we need to improve the border mechanisms that have been put into place and make them more efficient…and the two sides should continue to advance the negotiations on the boundary question and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area.”

India could not get its way with an upgraded joint mechanism on trans-border rivers to ease its concerns at construction activity on the Chinese portion of the Brahmaputra. But both sides signed a pact — among the eight agreements inked — to increase the frequency of exchange of hydrological data.

There was some progress on the economic front — an area that Beijing maintains is the centre piece of the visit from its point of view — with China holding out the promise of addressing India’s complaints about market access for its three exporting mainstays of IT, pharmaceuticals and food products.

Besides seeking to resolve the issues of border, water and trade through further discussions, the two leaders set milestones for the future by listing new areas of cooperation such as civil nuclear energy and seamless connectivity between Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar. They also sought to bring back to the table areas of cooperation, agreed upon with the previous Chinese leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, such as maritime security, ocean-bed research and tackling non-traditional security threats.

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