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Pranab in China, border row to dominate talks

June 04, 2008 19:52 IST
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External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee arrived in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Wednesday, kick-starting his four-day visit to the Communist giant during which the boundary row and irritants surrounding it are expected to dominate his talks with the leadership in Beijing.

Mukherjee was received at the airport by India's Ambassador to China, Nirupama Rao, and senior Chinese officials. On his maiden trip to China after becoming external affairs minister, Mukherjee is carrying a wide-ranging agenda from the long-running border issue often dogged by irritants to trade and water to discuss with his counterpart Yang Jiechi, whose invitation brings him to China.

During the visit, the first high-level contact since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's tour in January and the first by an Indian external affairs minister since 2002, Mukherjee would also hold talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Mukherjee is at the booming capital city of Guangzhou in Guangdong province, about 120 km northwest of Hong Kong, for the formal inauguration of the Consulate General of India. Mukherjee will arrive in Beijing on Thursday.

The visit, which is aimed at building on the positive momentum in bilateral ties, comes amidst warmer relations between the two Asian giants and a thriving trade that went beyond expectations of both sides but the ties have also come under stress with reports of border incursions and China's claims over Indian territory.

Mukherjee and Yang are expected to review the progress in the boundary talks between the Special Representatives who have conducted 11 rounds of negotiations on the basis of Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the settlement of the issue concluded in April 2005.

'The Special Representatives shall complete at an early date the task of arriving at an agreed framework of settlement on the basis of this Agreement,' according to 'A Shared Vision for the 21st Century' signed by the two countries during Prime Minister Singh's visit in January.

On the eve of Mukherjee's visit, Beijing said the two countries do not see each other as a threat and it would work towards reaching through dialogue a 'fair, reasonable and acceptable' solution to the boundary row.

"The two countries have reached a consensus which is that both are important neighbours and partners to each other. The two countries will not regard each other as a threat," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang had said on Tuesday.

China has said the two sides would hold talks on 'a series of issues,' including the boundary on which discussions had made "some progress" in recent years with the Special Representatives holding 11 rounds of dialogue under an established mechanism.

Enhancing trade between the two countries which has reached nearly US $ 40 billion and is targeted at US $ 60 billion by 2010, is also expected to figure as a key issue at the talks, as also the sharing of hydrological data on Brahmaputra river which rises on the Tibetan plateau.

Tibet, a  sensitive issue in Sino-India ties with Tibetans led by the Dalai Lama living in exile in India, is also likely to come up for discussions. China has appreciated India's stand on Tibet and Mukherjee's visit is the first high-level political contact after the unrest in Tibet erupted in March.

Delivering a speech at the prestigious Peking University and a meeting with Chinese Indologist Ji Xianlin, who was conferred the Padma Bhushan award this year in the first such India's civilian honour to a Chinese, are part of Mukherjee's engagements. Ji has translated the Ramayana from Sanskrit to Chinese.

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