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Water, Trade Focus of Pranab's China Visit

June 3, 2008

Seema Guha,
DNA India
June 2, 2008  02:56 IST

NEW DELHI -- Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to China this
week comes at an interesting time, ahead of the controversial Beijing
Olympics. It is also the first high level visit to China after the
crackdown in Tibet, underlying the fact that despite the recent
hiccups, the engagement between the two Asian giants remains on track.

This is not all. On Saturday, the Indian air force took the first
step to operationalise an airbase in Ladakh which  overlooks the
strategic Karakoram pass and  is located 8km south of the Chinese
border. A few years ago this would have been seen as a sign of
hostility but today, with a more mature relationship with a former
foe, the visit will not be affected. After all the airstrip is in
Indian territory and meant to service the forward posts.

The minister will be in China from June 4-7, at the invitation of his
counterpart Yang Jiechi. "The visit will be the first high-level
political exchange between the two countries after the prime
minister's visit to China in January," the foreign ministry statement said.
River water is sure to come up for discussion during the meeting and
an agreement for exchange of data on Brahmaputra or the Sang Po as it
is known in China is likely to be finalised.

Though Tibet is not in the agenda for talks, it is likely to come up
during Mukherjee's discussions with Yang Jiechi. The fact that
Tibet's spiritual leader Dalai Lama is based here and the majority of
the Tibetans in exile are in India, makes it an important and
sensitive issue for both countries.

While in Beijing he will honour professor Ji, the 97-year-old scholar
who had specialised in Sanskrit and translated the Ramayana and other
Indian works to Chinese.

Trade and investment will be high on the agenda. With two way trade
between the India and China doing so well the revised estimate now is
to make it $60 billion by 2010.
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