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Manmohan-Wen talk
Published on 25 Oct. 2009 1:03 AM IST
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Avoids Arunachal issue; vows to build better ties India and China Saturday pledged not to let differences derail bilateral ties as prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao held a much-awaited meeting in this Thai resort at a time when relations between the two countries have been strained. Both leaders shook hands warmly at the start of a 45-minute meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN and East Asia summits as they discussed the many ways to build a relationship still marred by a lingering border dispute. But, officials said, they avoided the two issues that have cast a shadow on their relations in recent times: Arunachal Pradesh, most of which China claims, and the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s proposed November visit to the state which Beijing bitterly opposes. Minus Arunachal and the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India in self-exile since fleeing his homeland in 1959, the two leaders agreed that there was plenty to bind the two most populous countries and two booming economies. Wen and Manmohan Singh met at the seaside Hotel Dusit Thani, where the two summits are being held. Before the formal delegation-level talks began, the Indian leader told Wen: “I am excited to see you.” On his part, Wen, who last met Manmohan Singh in New York in September 2008, congratulated him on his re-election in general elections this year. Manmohan Singh underscored the importance for both sides to build “better understanding and trust at the political level so that our relations should remain robust and strong”, according to N. Ravi, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs. He stressed that neither side should let “our differences act as impediment to the growth of functional cooperation between the two countries”. In his remarks, Wen pointed out that India and China, whose relationship continues to be bogged down by their border row that triggered a war in 1962, should live in harmony and friendship and also enjoy prosperity. He concurred with Manmohan Singh’s view that “issues that may arise in the course of our bilateral relations should be properly handled through discussions and they should not become impediment in the development of our friendly relations”. Xinhua quoted Wen as saying: “We have reached important consensus on promoting bilateral ties, and I believe that our two countries could maintain a good relationship in the future, which conforms with the interests of the two countries.” According to Ravi, Manmohan Singh reviewed all aspects of bilateral relations and reiterated India’s readiness to cooperate with China on issues like climate change, global trade and the international financial crisis. Manmohan Singh said “he would like to see India-China relations move forward in every direction”. Indian President Pratibha Patil, he added, was looking forward to visiting China next year. He agreed with Wen’s observation that Sino-Indian relations were in the interest of the region and the world. Wen said China was ready to maintain high-level exchanges and said there were sufficient areas for Beijing and New Delhi to enhance bilateral cooperation. Wen agreed with Manmohan Singh on the importance of enhancing bilateral trade and economic relations. India-China ties have been clouded by acrimony for over a month, with both Beijing and the official Chinese media taking an unusually aggressive stance over Arunachal. New Delhi has criticised Beijing’s decision to undertake projects in Pakistani Kashmir, saying this would impact negatively on India-China relations. The Chinese military has also been accused of foraying into Indian border areas. Beijing denies this. After meeting Wen, Manmohan Singh went on to hold bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and later plunged into the seventh summit between India and the 10-member Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). On Sunday, Manmohan Singh, who arrived here Friday night, will take part in the fourth East Asia Summit before flying back home.

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