Don’t Expect “Dramatic Turnaround” During PM’s Visit:Pranab

New Delhi, Jan 5, IRNA ,PTI — Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China, India Friday hinted that it did not expect “any dramatic turnaround” on the boundary issue but maintained that negotiations were moving in the “right direction”.

With negotiations continuing between Special Representatives of the two countries on the protracted boundary problem, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee indicated that there was still some distance to go before resolving it.

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“The visit is expected to be successful. But if you are expecting that there would be any dramatic turnaround on certain issues, which are long-pending, then it would perhaps be too much,” he told PTI Editors in an obvious reference to issues including the festering boundary problem that has hampered normalisation of India-China relations.

“But we are working in the right direction. In some areas we are moving very fast and in some we are slow but steady,” he said, noting that both governments have made an institutional arrangement to address the border dispute at the level of Special Representatives who have held 11 rounds of talks so far.

“I am quite hopeful that the Prime Minister’s visit (to China) ill be very successful and he will have wide ranging discussions with the new Chinese leadership after the Communist Party Congress.

Singh will have talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao and call on Chinese President Hu Jintao. He is also expected to meet with China’s top legislator, Wu Bangguo.

Mukherjee noted that he visited China in October last year for the third standalone trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of India, China and Russia held in the northeast Chinese city of Harbin.

Interestingly, Mukherjee who met his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi in the Chinese city of Harbin discussed the vexed boundary issue with the latter and issued the first public statement that both countries have established a Working Group to prepare a framework for the settlement of their boundary issue.

Unable to find a negotiated settlement through diplomatic channels, India and China appointed Special Representatives in June 2003 to address the border issue from a political perspective of the overall bilateral relations.

India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq kms of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

At the same time, Mukherjee stressed that India’s ties with China in areas like economy and commerce were expanding and bilateral exchange of views were on the rise. India and China even had common perceptions on certain regional issues, he said.

He also noted that Congress President and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi also visited China in October last year at the invitation of Chinese President and ruling Communist Party General Secretary, Hu Jintao.

“Both (his visit and that of Sonia) these visits went off very well,” Mukherjee added.