Border differences can’t dictate India-China ties: Pranab


New Delhi : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday said India will not allow "outstanding differences" with China on the boundary issue to define the agenda of the bilateral relationship which, he stressed, was crucial for "Asia's emergence" as the new power centre in a shifting global order.

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"While we remain fully conscious of our outstanding differences with China, including on the boundary question, the basic paradigm of our approach is to seek an all-round development of ties, without allowing these differences to define the agenda of the relationship," Mukherjee said in a speech on "India's growing engagement with East Asia" at a function in Jakarta.

"At the same time, we remain committed to proactively address these differences through peaceful dialogue on an equal footing," the minister told diplomats, academics and experts at a function organised by the Indonesian Institute for World Affairs and the Indian embassy.

The minister tried to accentuate the positives in India-China ties, especially since the strategic partnership forged by the two countries over two years ago, and stressed on "mutually rewarding" gains while ruling out any confrontation or rivalry between the two emerging Asian powers.

"While some degree of healthy competition between the two countries is inevitable, particularly in the area of trade and commerce, we believe that there is enough space and opportunity in the region and beyond for both India and China to grow together," he said.

"In our view, the India-China partnership is an important determinant for regional and global peace and development, and for Asia's emergence as the political and economic centre of the new international order," he said while placing the growing India-China ties in the context of the rise of Asia on the global stage.

"As India's largest neighbour and a key emerging player in the international arena, China remains an important priority of India's foreign policy," he said.

Mukherjee's remarks come close on the heels of his firm rebuff of the renewed Chinese claim on India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh while on a public diplomacy trip to Shillong a day before heading to Indonesia on a two-day visit that began Sunday.

"Any elected government of India is not permitted by the constitution to part with any part of our land that sends representatives to the Indian parliament," Mukherjee said in the capital of India's northeastern state Meghalaya.

Recently, China has upped the ante over its old claim over Arunanchal Pradesh and even denied visas to an Indian officer from the state on grounds that he was Chinese, and not Indian, as it considers Arunachal Pradesh to be part of China.

India and China are trying to resolve their decades old border dispute on the basis of guiding principles and political parameters, finalised over two years ago that include not disturbing settled populations in an area to arrive at a broader package settlement.

The two countries have held several rounds of talks, but a breakthrough appears to be elusive due to national sensitivities on both sides. But this impasse has not prevented two of Asia's fastest growing economies from strengthening their economic links as they seek to double bilateral trade to $40 billion by 2010.