PM arrives in Thailand for ASEAN summit; to meet Wen today

PM arrives in Thailand for ASEAN summit; to meet Wen today

PM arrives in Thailand for ASEAN summit; to meet Wen today

Chinese PM Wen Jiabao and Right: Indian PM Manmohan Singh

Singh, accompanied by wife Gursharan Kaur, arrived at the quiet and lush green town of Cha-Am Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand to attend the India-ASEAN Summit on Saturday and East Asia Summit on Sunday along with several leaders from the Asia Pacific region.

China regards Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed territory and objected to Prime Minister Singh's visit there for assembly polls, triggering sharp reaction from India which asserted that the state is an integral part of the country.

"Bilateral relationship will be in focus," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on the eve of the meeting between Singh and Wen on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.

Rao said the relationship between the two countries is a "complex one" though it has "developed in many areas" in recent years.

"You are aware of the outstanding issues that remain to be resolved between India and China and obviously in meetings of this nature, especially meetings between leadership at the highest level, there is an opportunity to address all these issues," she said.

Other issues which led to a verbal spat between the two fastest growing economies in the world included China issuing visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir on loose sheets. India also said the Chinese developmental activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were not in the interest of the Sino-India ties.

Concerns have also been expressed, especially by the north-eastern states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, over reports of China building dams on its side of the river Brahmputra.

However, in the last few days conciliatory tones were heard from both New Delhi and Beijing. Senior functionaries of both the countries said the border issue could be resolved by dialogue.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue had said in Beijing on Wednesday that Wen and Singh will discuss "bilateral relations and regional and international issues".

"This meeting between the two prime ministers is a very important one," Hu had said. "There has been good progress in our bilateral relationship and we hope this momentum can be sustained."

Besides, the two countries have forged a joint negotiating position on climate change in the UN Conference at Copenhagen in December.

Both India and China have entered into Free Trade Agreements with the 10-nation ASEAN bloc.

"India's enhanced engagement with the ASEAN is at the heart of our 'Look East' Policy," Singh said in New Delhi before his departure to Thailand.

The Prime Minister said the conclusion of the India-ASEAN Trade-in-Goods Agreement "is a major first step in our objective of creating an India-ASEAN Regional Trade and Investment Area".

If free flow of trade is allowed among the combined India-ASEAN population of 1.7 billion people, their bilateral engagement would grow well beyond USD 48 billion in 2008.
The ASEAN summit takes place among its 10 members – Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines.

Besides, there would be an India-ASEAN summit, ASEAN plus three (China, Japan, Korea) meet and the East Asia Summit which comprises the 10-nation bloc and India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

'Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering Peoples' is the theme of the annual ASEAN Summit which has been postponed twice in December 2008 and April this year in the face of anti-government protests in the host country of Thailand.