India, China to hold maritime dialogue, border meeting next week

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India, China to hold maritime dialogue, border meeting next week

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New Delhi, March 1 (IANS) In important trust-building steps ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit here March-end, India and China Thursday decided to set up a maritime dialogue and agreed to hold the maiden round of the newly-minted border mechanism in Beijing next week.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna held delegation-level talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. The two ministers reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and discussed issues that will figure in bilateral talks between the Chinese president and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the margins of the BRICS summit that will be held here March 29.

This will be the last visit of Hu to India before China goes in for a generational leadership succession expected this autumn. Hu last came to India in 2006.

"The strategic partnership needs to be strengthened," Krishna said after the talks and stressed that bilateral relations were progressing in a positive direction.

"Every possible issue that is raised whenever India-China dialogue takes place were raised and we have understood each other's position and we have understood the perspective and we will continue to exchange these," he said.

Echoing the desire for stronger relations, Yang said: "The Chinese government is committed to enhancing the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership."

Despite the recent verbal sparring triggered by Beijing's objections to Defence Minister A.K. Antony's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the two ministers stressed on enhancing relations and building trust.

The breakthrough came when the two sides agreed on launching a maritime dialogue, an important step in view of the growing profile of Indian and Chinese navies and the oft-touted scenarios of rivalry in the resource-rich, strategic Indian Ocean between the two maritime powers.

"India and China will set up a maritime dialogue. It is expected to be led by India's external affairs ministry and China's foreign ministry," Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India's external affairs ministry, told reporters here.

"It was a suggestion from the Chinese side. Both India and China are maritime nations with long coastlines," Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in charge of China in the external affairs ministry, said.

The spokesperson also announced that the first meeting of the working mechanism on border management will be held in Beijing next week.

The border mechanism was sealed after talks between special representatives of India and China during the 15th round of boundary negotiations last month. The mechanism is expected to help prevent misunderstanding between the two countries arising from incursion into each other's territory, stemming from the undemarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The mechanism will be headed by a Joint Secretary and a Director General from the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries respectively.

With the media playing a critical role in shaping of public perceptions of the sensitive India-China relationship, the two emerging powers also agreed to set up an India-China media forum, with Beijing permitting Zee TV to broadcast in China.

Krishna also raised the issue of imbalance in bilateral trade, which has exceeded $60 billion with a huge surplus in Beijing's favour, and urged China to allow Indian IT and pharmaceutical companies access to the Chinese market. The two sides also agreed on an early meeting of the CEOs forum to step up bilateral trade and investment.

The meeting of the foreign ministers was followed by the meeting of a joint working group on a counter-terrorism to explore steps to deal with trans-border militants that pose threat to the region.

India also briefed the Chinese delegation on the preparations for the fourth BRICS summit of the five emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in New Delhi March 29.

As the foreign ministers of India and China held talks, Tibetan activists protested and raised anti-China slogans. India has given an undertaking to China that it will not allow its soil to be used for anti-China activities.

The police detained nearly a dozen Tibetan activists who shouted "No border talks without free Tibet," a reference to India's boundary dispute with China. India and China have held 15 rounds of talks to resolve the border dispute, but have not made much headway.

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