Chinese Premier Li arrives Sunday; to discuss border and more

New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) All issues would be on the table, including the India-China boundary question, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Sunday evening.

Li, who arrives in India Sunday afternoon on a three-day state visit, and Manmohan Singh are also likely to discuss the proposed border defence cooperation agreement during their talks, sources said Saturday.

Li’s visit comes days after the 20-day India-China border stand-off was resolved May 5. A platoon of Chinese troops had made made incursions about 19 km inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the disputed border – April 15 and pitched tents. The row was resolved after several rounds of negotiations – military and diplomatic – with both sides reverting to the position that existed before April 15.

China proposed a border defence cooperation agreement May 5, and India has made some suggestions to be included in the draft.

Talks are ongoing on the draft, said the source, adding that “it will continue to be discussed”.

The draft “essentially consolidates and brings together” earlier protocols and agreements.

The trade imbalance would also figure in talks. 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.

However, the trade imbalance stands at $28.87 billion, which is in favour of China.

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

Li will attend a dinner hosted by the Indian prime minister Sunday. He will be accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan Monday and will visit Rajghat to offer tributes.

He will then hold delegation-level talks with the prime minister at Hyderabad House, after which the two sides are expected to ink some agreements. The prime minister will host a lunch for the Chinese premier.

He will be called upon by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj. Li will call upon Vice President Hamid Ansari and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Li will address an event at the Taj Palace Hotel Monday, being hosted by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and FICCI and then proceed to Mumbai. In the afternoon, Li would visit the TCS office and also meet with the relatives of Dwarkanath Kotnis, an Indian doctor who is warmly remembered in China for his services during the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945).

In the evening, he is to address a dinner meeting of the three business chambers – Assocham, FICCI and CII.

Ahead of his arrival, the Chinese premier has already indicated the direction his interactions would take by hearkening back to his visit to this country 27 years ago and saying the fond memories of that trip have had a “lasting effect” on him.

Li, addressing an Indian youth delegation in Beijing ahead of his India visit, said he has chosen India as his first foreign stop as prime minister, “not just because India is an important neighbour and one of the populous countries of the world but also because of the seeds of friendship sown during my own youth”.

The premier has also signalled China’s intent to see India-China ties at a higher level so that they can “together raise the standing of Asia in the world and truly make Asian economy an important engine for the world economy”.

He will travel to Pakistan from India and then on to Switzerland and Germany on his nine-day trip.

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