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India, China discuss Sikkim row

By Raghavendra in Beijing
June 05, 2008 22:35 IST
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India and China are understood to have discussed the latest row over Sikkim on Thursday, during talks between their Foreign Ministers, dominated by the festering boundary issue, with the two sides agreeing to use existing mechanisms whenever necessary to maintain peace and tranquility along the border.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is on a four-day official visit to China, met his counterpart Yang Jiechi and discussed issues of mutual concern.

The two sides agreed not to change the situation and use existing mechanisms whenever necessary to maintain peace and tranquility along the border, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said.

"Both sides covered all major issues in bilateral relations in a constructive, positive and forward-looking manner. The minister was very satisfied with both the content and the nature of the talks and the outcome on all these issues," Menon told reporters after the meeting.

He said there was a clear determination on both sides to carry forward the bilateral relationship.

Sources said the Sikkim issue was also discussed with China, insisting that the two sides had different perceptions and the matter should be sorted out through dialogue.

On the border issue, there was consensus on finding a mutually acceptable solution to the problem through talks at the level of Special Representatives, Menon said.

"We expressed satisfaction on the progress they have made so far and look forward to further progress they will be making in future," Menon said, adding that the next round of meeting at their level will be held in the coming months.

At the same time, both sides agreed not to disturb "the status quo or change the situation and to use existing mechanisms whenever necessary to maintain peace and tranquility along the border," Menon said.

"We discussed all issues of substance of immediate interest. We will continue the conversations," he said, adding, "on the substantive side, we are very satisfied with what we have achieved and what we have done."

The Chinese Foreign Minister will attend a dinner hosted by Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao on Friday.

Premier Wen Jiabao sent a special message to Mukherjee stating that he would not be able to meet him on Friday personally as scheduled because he has to rush to the quake-hit areas to assess the situation.

The issue of India reopening the Dawalbaigh Oldi air base in the mountainous Ladakh region close to the Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin area last week, 43 years after it was closed, did not figure during the meeting, sources said.

The meeting was also attended by Menon and Nirupama Rao.

In another important development, China also agreed to provide India with flood season hydrological data of Bhramaputra, which will ensure the safety and security of the people living along the river.

A Memorandum of Understanding to this effect was signed after Mukherjee's talks with Yang. Brahmaputra, which is known as Yarlung Zangbo in China, originates from Tibet.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee formally inaugurated the Consulate General of India in the booming southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.

Addressing a gathering there, Mukherjee said India is keen to learn from China's 'remarkable success' in developing Special Economic Zones and expects the trade target of US$ 60 billion between the two countries to be surpassed before 2010.

"The trade target of US$ 60 billion by 2010, set by our two prime ministers, is very likely to be surpassed before 2010," Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee said Guangdong province, which accounts for one-third of China's total foreign trade, had always been at the forefront of the country's economic reform and opening to the outside world.

"There is tremendous interest in India to learn from your experiences, including your remarkable success in developing your Special Economic Zone," he said.

Mukherjee said "if India and China are to grow together, as your President Hu Jintao said during his visit to India, our economic and commercial relationship must become the firm foundation for such growth."

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, are part of Mukherjee's engagements on Friday.

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