Chinese premier in India, border row on agenda

New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived here Sunday on a three-day state visit, his first overseas trip after assuming office in March, during which he will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a string of issues including the recent border row.

Li, who touched down late Sunday afternoon, was received by Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed at Palam airport’s Air Force Station, where VVIP flights land.

From India, Li will go to Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany. He is in India at the invitation of Manmohan Singh.

Li’s visit comes days after a Sino-Indian border stand-off was resolved. A platoon of Chinese troops intruded about 19 km inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the disputed boundary – April 15 and pitched tents.

The row ended May 5 after several rounds of negotiations – military and diplomatic – with both sides reverting to the position that existed before April 15.

The issue led to tensions and is likely to be discussed when Li and Singh hold restricted talks – without their delegations – Sunday evening. Singh is to also host a dinner for the visiting dignitary.

Beijing’s proposed border defence cooperation agreement, to which New Delhi has made suggestions to be included in the draft, is also likely to figure in the talks.

“Everything would be on the table when the two premiers meet,” an Indian official said.

Officials of both sides are discussing the draft of the border agreement.

A joint mechanism for monitoring the flow of the Brahmaputra river, which flows from Tibet downstream to India, is also likely to figure.

India has voiced concern over a number of dams being built by Beijing on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, or Yarlung Tsangpo as it is called.

The trade imbalance is also likely to be taken up. India is to press for market access in pharmaceuticals and IT. Bilateral trade was $66 billion last year as China became India’s second largest trading partner.

The trade imbalance stands at $28.87 billion, and in favour of China.

Both sides are expected to discuss regional and international issues, including Afghanistan.

On Monday, Li will hold delegation level talks with the prime minister at the Hyderabad House after which the two sides are expected to sign some agreements.

The Chinese leader is to proceed for Mumbai Tuesday afternoon (May 21) and from there fly to Pakistan the next day.

Xinhua news agency in a commentary Saturday said the choice of India as the first leg of Li’s maiden overseas trip had sent out a clear signal that Beijing’s new leadership prioritizes enhancing ties with New Delhi.

But “the two nations cannot fully restore mutual trust without resolving the border dispute”, it said.

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