Sanya (China): During a 50-minute meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hu Jintao here on Wednesday, India has agreed to set up a mechanism for consultations and coordination on border affairs, besides restoring full defence cooperation with China after a considerable pause.

During the crucial meeting, China gave an assurance to address the Indian concern over the growing trade imbalance in its favour.

Year of India-China Exchanges

During the "very productive, warm and friendly" meeting, Singh and Hu launched the 'Year of India-China Exchanges in 2011', National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told reporters.

As part of the measure, there will be a series of visits including by an Indian military delegation to China besides exchange of visits by senior political leaders,
holding of strategic economic dialogue, official consultations and people-to-people contacts, he said.

"It has been agreed that a multi-command Indian military delegation will visit China later this year," Menon said.

Sources said the delegation could visit as early as June and is expected to be headed by a Corps Commander level officer of the rank of Lt General.

The decision to send a military delegation to China marks an end to the freeze on high-level defence exchanges by India after the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal was denied a proper visa in July last year for travel to
Beijing because he served in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indian decision comes amid apparent moves by China to reverse its two-year policy of giving stapled visas to people hailing from Jammu and Kashmir.

The NSA, however, insisted that the defence exchanges were never frozen as levels of communications at various levels, including at border commander level, were maintained. He said the two countries will be discussing further exchanges and visits during the year.

To a question, Menon said the issue of stapled visas was not discussed during the meeting between Singh and Hu as "work" is in progress in this regard.

Mechanism on Border Affairs


In his opening remarks at the meeting, Singh told Hu that India was "keen to expand areas of cooperation" with China. "I wish to reaffirm the desire to strengthen strategic and economic partnership with China in every possible way," the Prime Minister said.

As the two leaders greeted each other warmly, Singh pointed out to Hu that they had met a number of times, including on the sidelines of G-20 and BRIC Summits.

Hu said it was pleasure to meet Singh and that he looked forward to exchanging views on bilateral and international issues of mutual interest.

Menon said during the meeting, the two sides had reached an in-principle agreement for setting up working Mechanism for Consultations and Coordination on Border Affairs to handle maintenance of peace and tranquility along the
boundary.

The mechanism at official-level, he explained, will explore the areas of cooperation in border areas like border trade and movement.

Menon said as part of increased exchanges, a number of high level visits will take place to China during this year. While reviewing the bilateral relations, Singh and Hu expressed satisfaction at the steady growth of relations, Menon said.

Trade and economic relations


Singh and Hu took stock of trade and economic relations and were convinced that these were on track to achieving the USD 100 billion by 2015. Talking about trade imbalance, the Prime Minister sought better access for Indian goods in Chinese markets, particularly in IT, pharma and engineering sectors.

The Chinese President agreed that trade imbalance was a serious issue and said a series of measures were being taken to address it. In this context, the two sides will be holding strategic economic dialogue.

Earlier, China has proposed to India a consultation and coordination mechanism to resolve "border issues" and to maintain peace and stability at the border regions before the boundary issue is resolved, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The proposal was made by the Chinese President, Hu during his meeting with Singh.

Hu said he hoped the two countries solve differences properly and safeguard peace and stability.

"China is willing to further push forward negotiations on border issues on the basis of peace and friendliness, equal consultation, mutual respect and understanding," state run Xinhua quoted Hu as proposing to Singh.

The two sides should consider setting up a consultation and coordination mechanism on border issues so as to achieve consensus as soon as possible and to better maintain peace and stability at the border regions before the issues are solved, Hu said.

China was apparently proposing a mechanism to address issues before a settlement is reached.

The Xinhua report said that the two leaders agreed to further deepen China-India strategic cooperative partnership so as to push forward the development of the two countries.

India, China to promote peace, prosperity in Asia

They also vowed to promote peace, stability and prosperity in Asia as well as the world. The two countries should maintain high-level exchanges and to enhance political mutual trust, Hu said. China and India should expand exchanges between  governments, legislative bodies and political parties.

The two sides should take the advantage of political dialogue and consultation to exchange views timely on bilateral ties and other important issues of common concern, Hu said.

Secondly, Hu suggested the two sides expand economic and trade cooperation for mutual benefit. China and India should hold the first meeting under the strategic and economic dialogue mechanism as soon as possible, Hu said.

The two sides should actively promote cooperation in fields such as infrastructure, information technology, investment, project contracting and banking sector to  achieve a win-win result.

Thirdly, Hu suggested the two sides broaden people-to-people exchanges so as to enhance mutual understanding.

China and India announced the official start of the "Year of China-India Exchange" onWednesday.

China will invite 500 Indian young people from all walks of life to visit China, Hu said, adding that China is also willing to provide support to Indian middle and high
schools in teaching Chinese.

Relations between the two countries have maintained healthy and stable development momentum since April 2010.

The president said exchanges and cooperation in various arenas between the two countries have been deepening continuously and the two sides have maintained close communication and coordination on global issues of great significance.
The global and strategic significance of China-India relations is highlighted as the world is going through great changes, Hu said, adding that bilateral relations between the two countries have a broad future.

Singh said he totally agreed with Hu's four-point proposals on developing the relations between the two countries. China and India announced the establishment of their strategic and cooperative partnership in 2005.

Singh said economic and trade cooperation is the cornerstone for the two countries' strategic cooperation.

He said India welcomes and encourages Chinese enterprises to invest in the country, especially in the area of infrastructure. China is India's largest trade partner.

Bilateral trade jumped to 61.8 billion US dollars last year from 18.7 billion dollars in 2005.

The prime minister said India hopes to promote people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

He also said that India is willing to join hands with China to find a mutually acceptable solution for border issues. Hu said China and India share far-ranging mutual interests in international and regional affairs.

China would like to join hands with India in strengthening coordination and cooperation within the United Nations, the Group of 20 as well as within the BRICS mechanism that houses Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Hu
said.

Hu said he hoped China and India could help each other in participating regional cooperation and safeguarding mutual interests by jointly coping with issues like climate change, food and energy security.

The two leaders also exchanged views on issues of common concern such as the situation in west Asia and north Africa.

PM invites Hu for India visit

At the meeting, the Prime Minister invited Hu to visit India who accepted and said a mutually-convenient date would be worked out. The Chinese President also invited Singh for a bilateral visit which was accepted.

The two leaders asked their Special Representatives to continue working out a solution to the boundary issue.

So far, 13 rounds of talks have been held between the SRs on the issue while the next round is scheduled to be held in New Delhi. Asked about when the 14th round could be held, Menon said there were no dates yet.

 

(Agencies)