India’s main thrust during two spells of interaction with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was the border issue, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointing out that peace and tranquillity on the border was the foundation of the bilateral relationship, India’s Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar told reporters.

“During this visit, the issue was discussed at some length,” he said referring to Dr. Singh’s media statement where he spoke about the lessons learnt from the Depsang incident. But this was a complicated issue and the agreement between the leaders was that this needed detailed examination. And that was really what they charged the Special Representatives with that, he explained.

Asked why the proposed border cooperation defence agreement did not come up for discussion, he said the Chinese gave India the draft on March 4 while India submitted its proposal on May 10. “Since our draft is pending their consideration, to me it is not at all surprising the matter did not come up because it is still something on which we need to engage them in detailed discussions.” “There are issues,” he admitted, but on the whole the view was that the shared interests outweighed the differences.

In addition to the border, the first big point on the bilateral side, economic issues took a lot of time in discussions between the two leaders. “The Chinese Premier suggested very practical measures on how to deal with this. In the last few years this was the most positive and most practical response from the Chinese side. Some of it was in evidence in the agreements which were signed in terms of greater market access,” pointed out Dr. Jaishankar.

The second aspect of economic cooperation was investment, which both sides saw as providing part of the solution to trade problems.

On trans-border rivers, the Indian envoy characterised the Chinese response as sympathetic. “I think they recognise that we have concerns. They pointed out that they would not do something which would damage our interests. And essentially what we agreed upon was that we would strengthen our cooperation based on our existing mechanism,” he said.

On the new area of bilateral nuclear cooperation, Dr. Jaishankar said it was not mint fresh: “We have had bilateral civil nuclear cooperation with China in the past. Today the issue came up again. And you must bear in mind that we are today probably the two countries who have the largest planned civil nuclear energy programmes. So, it makes great sense for us to exchange views and have other exchanges. So, the two Prime Ministers decided that this was an area that we should be doing more.”

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