Home India News India to discuss nuclear energy, border row with China

India to discuss nuclear energy, border row with China


New Delhi : India will seek China’s support in its quest for global civil nuclear cooperation and stress on an early resolution of the border dispute during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit to Beijing that begins Sunday.

Ahead of his maiden visit to Beijing, Manmohan Singh said he hoped his visit will give a new thrust to ties between the two countries and stressed on an early end to the decades-old border dispute which will give a big push to steadily improving ties between the two Asian giants.

In an interview to Xinhua News Agency, Manmohan Singh said he hoped to have “free and frank discussions” in China on issues of common interest “with a view to shaping a relationship that benefits our two countries and our future generations”.

India-China relations, he added, “have today transcended their bilateral dimension and have acquired global and strategic significance”.

Manmohan Singh said he considered it “a great honour” to visit China, which he described as a country “in the midst of a transformation with far reaching consequences… My visit is part of the recent happy tradition of high-level exchanges between our two countries.

“I will seek to build upon and impart greater momentum to these relations. This is today a historical necessity.”

India and China will also discuss an entire gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the intensification of economic ties, energy security and climate change, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters in a curtain-raiser press conference.

Manmohan Singh leaves for Beijing Saturday night, the first visit by an Indian prime minister in five years.

With continuing speculation about China’s stance in the NSG, civil nuclear cooperation will be an important theme of discussion between the two sides.

“We have been in touch on the issue. We will raise the subject again,” Menon told reporters Friday when asked whether India will take up the issue of civil nuclear cooperation with China.

“We would like to work with friendly countries like China in this area. We have worked in this area before. China had supplied low enriched uranium for Tarapur in the early nineties,” Menon said.

Menon, however, added that India will not explicitly seek the support of China in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) during the visit as it has to first conclude a safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it hopes to do this month.

“We haven’t actually come to that point. When it comes to the NSG, we will ask all our friends to support clean unconditional exemption for India in the NSG,” Menon said, hinting that China will not stand in the way of India in the NSG.

Besides civil nuclear cooperation, the contentious border issue will be on the table when Manmohan Singh will hold talks with Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

In an interview to Xinhua, Manmohan Singh stressed on India’s commitment to “resolving outstanding differences, including on the boundary question, through peaceful means and in a fair, reasonable, mutually acceptable and pro-active manner.”

“An early settlement of the boundary question will advance the basic interests of the two countries and should, therefore, be pursued as a strategic objective,” he said when asked about the border dispute that sparked a war between India and China in 1962.

“Border has been peaceful for many years. There is difference in perception in some areas though. We are making progress in border talks,” Menon said while alluding to 11 rounds of talks held between special representatives of both sides to address the issue that has shadowed ties between the two countries.

The two countries are trying to arrive at an agreed framework the for resolution of the border dispute that will reflect guiding principles and political parameters finalised during the visit of the Chinese premier to India in April 2005.

In a bid to skirt controversy ahead of Manmohan Singh’s visit, Menon replied matter-of-factly when asked about reports of China developing defence-related infrastructure along border areas.

“Both sides have maintained peace and tranquillity along the border. It’s natural for both sides to develop infrastructure on their side of the border,” he said.

“Both countries are committed to status quo pending the resolution of the border issue,” he added.

Enhancing trade and investment between the two countries will be another focus area with Manmohan Singh expected to address a business gathering of corporate honchos of both sides Tuesday.

“The growth in economic relations is better than expected. According to Chinese statistics, bilateral trade has already crossed $37 billion,” Menon said.

China has become India’s second largest trading partner. The two countries have ratified an investment promotion and protection agreement and set up a joint study group to identify tariff and non-tariff barriers with a view to diversifying their engagement into new sectors.

Other bilateral issues like cooperation in joint exploration of oil fields in third countries, exchange of hydrological data relating to trans-border rivers, promotion of cultural ties and tourism between the two countries will also be discussed.

Cooperation in the area of food security – a common challenge for large developing countries with rapidly developing economies – will be highlighted when the two countries sign a memorandum of understanding in the area of land management.

The cabinet has approved five agreements in fields as diverse as land management, housing, traditional medicine, railways and geosciences, which will be signed during Manmohan Singh’s visit – the fifth visit by an Indian prime minister to China.