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Pranab kicks off China visit; border issue likely at core of agenda

New Delhi, Wed, 04 Jun 2008 NI Wire

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee kicks off his four-day official visit to China on Wednesday to lay discussion on number of issues comprising the most confrontational border dispute with his counterpart Yang Jiechi.

The ministers of two most populous nations will also hold discussion on international, regional and bilateral issues of mutual interests with decade-old border dispute, Tibet protests, and of course to boost up trade, which will be high on agenda in the meeting. The on-going tour is actually a follow-up to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China in January this year.

India and China, despite continuously engaged on border confrontation, have tremendously enhanced their bilateral trade in recent years and also set to achieve bilateral trade target to $60 billion by the end of 2010.

But, the most significant issue which is being expected to supersede the agenda will be long-running border dispute especially in the wake of Indian border officials' claim about augmenting aggressive Chinese patrolling and encroachment in Himalayan region in recent years. The incident though has been taken by army and Central government officials with cool minds to not aggravate the situation further.

China claims large parts of the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh bordering her territory and also seizes land in Ladakh claimed by India. The border dispute further emerged in recent weeks when China reportedly laid claim to the Indian state of Sikkim bordering her territory.

During Prime Minister’s visit in January this year, the two sides positively appraised the work of the Special Representatives in seeking a mutually acceptable framework for a settlement on the boundary issue that will be based on the “Agreement on Guiding Principles and Political Parameters” signed in April 2005. India and China were also agreed to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

Besides holding meeting with his counterpart Yang Jiechi, Pranab Mukherjee will also call on other ministers including Premier Wen Jiabao and will inaugurate the new Consulate General of India in Guangzhou.

Mr. Mukherjee is visiting the neighbouring China at the invitation of Jiechi, who is also planned to tour India later this year. As a part of mutual support and co-operation and deepening strong relationship and trust between the armed forces of the two countries, India will also host the second annual defence dialogue as well as the second joint military exercise in 2008.

The meeting will be the first high-level political exchange between the two nations after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who visited China in mid-January this year. It will also be the first official tour by Pranab Mukherjee, as foreign minister since 2002, when Jaswant Singh, the then foreign minister during the regime of NDA last visited China.

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