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Updated: October 25, 2013 10:46 IST

In speech to future Chinese leaders, Manmohan outlines new vision for ties

Ananth Krishnan
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday.
PTI Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday outlined a new vision for the future of India’s ties with China, detailing “seven practical principles of engagement” that emphasised greater sensitivity to core issues, such as the boundary question and managing trans-border rivers, as a prerequisite for taking the relationship forward in other areas.

Maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas was “a cornerstone” of the relationship, Dr. Singh said in a speech to around 500 members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee’s Party School, an elite body that trains future officials. The Prime Minister stressed that “we should do nothing to disturb that” and “at the same time should move quickly to resolve our boundary issue”.

Ensuring peace along the border and increasing consultations “on complex issues such as trans-border rivers and our trade imbalance” were two of the seven principles of engagement Dr. Singh outlined.

His speech struck a noticeably more measured – and realistic – tone about the future of the relationship than evident in past “shared vision” statements by leaders, which have often downplayed – or even ignored – more difficult issues while setting lofty objectives.

The idea was to impress upon Thursday’s select audience, which included rising provincial Party secretaries, promising CPC cadres and diplomats-in-waiting – China’s “future leaders”, as one school official put it – the often divergent and complex forces shaping the bilateral relationship, which has seen rapid economic growth even as strategic mistrust has persisted.

“Concerns on both sides – whether it is incidents in the border region, trans-border rivers or trade imbalances…. can become impediments to the full exploitation of the opportunities for bilateral and multilateral cooperation between India and China,” Dr. Singh said.

Framing peace on the border as the “cornerstone” of the relationship is a message that the Prime Minister has emphasised to the Chinese leadership particularly in the aftermath of the face-off along the border in April, in Depsang in Ladakh, triggered by Chinese troops putting up tents in disputed areas.

Trans-boundary rivers and the widening trade imbalance were also mentioned as “complex issues” that required greater consultations.

The other five areas of engagement were: sensitivity to each other’s core concerns; greater policy coordination on global issues to boost strategic trust; pushing economic ties; widening people-to-people contact; and “a spirit of transparency” to eliminate misunderstandings on issues concerning “our region and our periphery”.

The last point appeared to reference India’s concerns on a number of aspects of China’s engagement with Pakistan. During Wednesday’s talks, India reiterated its concerns over Chinese investments in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

In Thursday’s speech, Dr. Singh also highlighted the threat of “terrorism, extremism and radicalism emanating from our neighbourhood”, saying it was affecting “both of us directly and can create instability across Asia.”

The Prime Minister described maritime security in the Pacific and Indian Oceans as essential to India’s energy security, and said it was in India’s interest to see an “inclusive and rule-based security architecture” in Asia. He also emphasised that India’s strategic partnerships with other countries were “defined by our own economic interests, needs and aspirations” and “not directed against China or anyone else”. Chinese State media have frequently denounced India's recent moves to bolster its economic ties in Southeast Asia, particularly with countries like Vietnam that are embroiled in disputes with China over the South China Sea.

“We expect a similar approach from China,” Dr. Singh said. “We were not destined to be rivals, and we should show determination to become partners”.

Dr. Singh was earlier introduced to the Party School’s students in glowing terms, described by Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, as a “world-renowned statesman”.

He Yiting, the Party’s School Executive Vice-President, introduced Dr. Singh as the architect of India’s economic reforms. “The success of India can be attributed to the hard work of Dr. Singh,” he said.

Following the address, Dr. Singh was asked by the mayor of a city in southern Hunan province about how both sides could widen economic cooperation. He suggested infrastructure investments as one avenue, considering Chinese capabilities and Indian needs.

An official from the Foreign Affairs Office of Hainan, a southern island province, asked Dr. Singh what he saw as the biggest challenge facing the relationship.

“The most important thing for both of us to undertake,” he answered, “is to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border”.

Let us hope that the China-India border talks lead to a speedy and mutually satisfactory conclusion after the PM's China visit. All these years we have heard about talks on talks and more talks. We are moving around in circles and cut a sorry figure. With all the latest GPS technology and cartography available it should not be beyond both parties to wrap up their negotiations expeditiously and sign a final agreement. The real obstacle is political chicanery and chauvinism.

from:  Lionel Fernandes
Posted on: Oct 25, 2013 at 00:12 IST

@Brian;

"China needs to focus first on fixing their massive problem with pollution before they destroy the world's Eco systems. That should be their first priority."

China is world's factory, their pollution is far less than the Western world for what goods they provide to humanity.

from:  Tipu Qaimkhani
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 21:36 IST

Wow..What is understood to be "India" is infact "Lines" drawn by the
British on a Map..!! And I can say nowhere in earth have they done an
accurate job in it. Besides, Rather than pointless competetion, Its good fr us to
Cooperate.!

from:  Ramkumar
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 16:30 IST

India should sharpen its diplomacy. It should be bold enough to call spade,a spade.When our prime minister is going to solve our border issues as we keep going on adhoc arrangments only. A mere mutual admiration in diplomatic parlance will not help India to move forward and enhance its prestige among its own poople and abroad.Talking nicely and looking beautifully are waste and unworthy of a great country -India

from:  Balasundaram
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 14:41 IST

China needs to focus first on fixing their massive problem with pollution before they destroy the world's Eco systems. That should be their first priority.

from:  Brian
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 14:35 IST

This is what the peaceful way of finding precise solution for border dispute. Jingoism that we see in noisy electronic media shouldn't be given importance. We are fortunate to have a person like Manmohan Singh to our side.

from:  Yogeshwar
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 13:07 IST

It is absolutely a cowardly diplomatic mission, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done and all Indians must be ashamed of it. The Chinese army during the past six months have infiltrated into our territory and removed the CCTV cameras, the wireless antenna, cable and the fencing. Under any circumstances, it is a critical matter and I am sure should have been one if the issues to be strongly taken.
Instead just signing agreements etc without resolving issues is a pathetic Diplomacy.
Why the Indian media miss such critical issues in their news and just
project what is superficially done is not understandable. India after
60 years of Independence depicts being clumsy through our politicians.

from:  Dilip Kumar Pillai
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 12:29 IST

@Ram Borana

"America is better as they are transparent in their deals".

That must be a news to even American allies, now that Snowden has exposed everything.

from:  Janarddan
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 12:25 IST

Very lucid approach.Well done!!

from:  sandeep
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 11:09 IST


Somehow China is not always trustworthy for us. They back stab after winning our trust. America is better as they are transparent in their deals.

from:  Ram Borana
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 10:44 IST

Namaste Mr.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,
Welcome to China.
As India's great writer Tagore said, we are brothers.
Let's work together to benefit our two countries's people and make a better
palce in the world.
Have a successful visit and achieved fruitful results!

Best regards,
Jack

from:  Jack Su
Posted on: Oct 24, 2013 at 10:13 IST
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