Chinese premier to hold talks with PM on contentious issues

Last Updated 19 May 2013, 07:12 IST

On his first overseas visit after assuming office, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will arrive here today and will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on all contentious issues, including the boundary dispute.

Shortly after his arrival, Li will be holding restricted talks with Singh, who will also host a dinner for the visiting dignitary at his official residence which will be attended among others by members of major political parties, including BJP and SP.

Asserting that India thinks "very highly" of Li's gesture of making the country his first overseas stop after assuming charge, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said such high-level exchanges are aimed at enhancing trust and understanding as well as "exhibiting sensitivity" towards each other's concerns.

Giving details of Li's programme, he said the Chinese Premier, who will arrive in the afternoon, will hold restricted meeting with Singh followed by dinner.

Tomorrow, the two leaders, accompanied by high-level delegations, will hold comprehensive talks on key international, regional and bilateral issues.

On the specific issues to be discussed between the leaders of the two countries, which
are witnessing differences on various crucial matters including boundary, water and on market access under economic ties, JS (East Asia) Gautam Bambawale said, "Everything is on the table."

"The two Prime Ministers would talk about these subjects. Since it (incursion) being the recent occurrence (will be discussed)," Bambawale said.

Sources said the issue of breach of status quo in Ladakh region will also be discussed and India will press that the Special Representatives of India and China, who are scheduled to meet in next few months, take it up the matter in detail to avoid such occurrences in future.

India has been pressing for clarification and confirmation on LAC in the India-China border areas pending a final settlement.

Noting that in the agreements worked out in 1993 and 1996 there were clarifications on the differing perceptions on LAC and exchanges on it, the sources said somehow in later years, this went off the table from the Chinese side, probably because there was a sense that it may be taken as a default boundary.

"There is a need to revive this particular subject to prevent incidents of this nature. Clarifications we really seek are imperative and are required. (Otherwise) this (Depsang incursion) kind of incident could recur. This is something we would certainly flag," the sources said.

Asked if there was any progress made on the Chinese proposal on Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, to which India has also submitted a counter proposal, Bambawale said that these proposals were currently being discussed but refused to divulge further details.

On the economic front, Bambawale said India will continue to press for access to the Chinese market.

In 2012, bilateral trade was USD 66 billion, a decline over the USD 74 billion mark in 2011. The two countries have set a target of USD 100 billion by 2015 for bilateral trade.

India faces a growing trade deficit vis-a-vis China. By the end of 2011, India's trade deficit was USD 27 billion. According to Chinese trade figures released in January 2013, the figure had expanded to USD 29 billion by 2012.

Apart from trade, India is also the largest market for project exports from China. Currently, projects under execution are estimated at over USD 55 billion. As per Chinese figures, cumulative Chinese investments in India till December 2011 stood at USD 575.70 million while Indian investments in China were USD 441.70 million.

Another issue which is expected to be raised by India is its concern over the Chinese proposal to construct three more dams across the Brahmaputra river. India has been pressing China to have either a water commission or an inter- governmental dialogue to deal with water issues as under the current Expert Level Mechanism (ELM), the two countries only share hydrological information.

On his second-leg of journey,, officials said Li will attend a meeting with business leaders in Mumbai and visit Tata Consultancy Services facility.

The Chinese Premier will also meet family members of late Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis, an Indian physician dispatched to China to provide medical assistance during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938.

(Published 19 May 2013, 07:03 IST)

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