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India, China to set up hotline

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Dai Bingguo, State Councillor and Special Representative on the Boundary Question to India, at a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Dai Bingguo, State Councillor and Special Representative on the Boundary Question to India, at a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.

Sandeep Dikshit

Decision taken to hold the Year of Friendship with China in India

NEW DELHI: India and China have decided to set up a hotline between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao as a confidence building measure. The decision was taken during the 13th Round of India-China Special Representatives talks on the boundary question which concluded here on Saturday in a “cordial and friendly atmosphere.”

Bilateral relations and regional issues were also discussed.

At the ministerial level, India now has a hotline only with Russia, while China has a functional hotline with the United States. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told Parliament last month that the proposal had come from the Chinese side and the intention was to “maintain regular contacts at the highest level.”

‘Centrepiece’

Discussing a broader agenda than just the border issue, the two special representatives — National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and State Councillor Dai Bingguo — identified trade and economic relations as the “centrepiece” of the bilateral relations and noted that despite the global economic slowdown, India-China trade last year was $52 billion. They resolved to create suitable conditions and an environment to maintain the expansion of trade ties.

In order to “fittingly” observe the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year, it was decided to hold the Year of Friendship with China in India, while China will also kick off similar celebrations, said sources privy to the two-day meeting. Mr. Narayanan and Mr. Dai also noted that the frequent interactions between the two countries lent “global significance” to the bilateral ties.

China had proposed the establishment of the hotline during a meeting between Dr. Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia. There were expectations of the hotline getting activated in July. No date has so far been announced and officials said technical and other modalities were being worked out.

Describing ties with China as a key foreign policy priority, Mr. Narayanan said the joint document on a “Shared Vision for the 21st Century” signed during Dr. Singh’s visit to China January last year had taken bilateral relations to a new level.

An External Affairs Ministry statement said Mr. Dai referred to the rapid growth witnessed in bilateral relations in recent years. Highlighting the importance of the ongoing consultations and coordination between the two countries on multilateral fora, he hoped that the two countries would jointly meet global challenges in the spirit of the “Shared Vision.”

During his visit, Mr. Dai called on Dr. Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. He conveyed the greetings of Mr. Hu and handed over a written message of greetings from Mr. Wen to Dr. Singh.

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