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Border Row to Top Agenda During Pranab's China Visit

June 5, 2008

Sri Krishna
The Statesman (India)
June 3, 2008

NEW DELHI, June 3 -- The border issue, trade, Tibet and water are
among the several issues which are expected to figure during the
four-day visit of the external affairs minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee,
to China from tomorrow.

However, officials indicated that the border issue which is being
discussed by special envoys of the two countries may not get as much
prominence at the talks Mr Mukherjee would be having during his
Beijing visit, officials said. The Opposition BJP, which while
heading the NDA coalition at the Centre had sought to have closer
relations with China, was critical of the government's foreign
policy. Referring to recent Chinese "incursions", it said, "The
government's craven response to all these endangers India for it
tempts China." China had recently laid claim to an area in Sikkim
known as the Finger Area and there has been a growing demand that the
issue be raised by India. However, China sought to allay any
apprehensions on this score, saying the two countries do not see each
other as a threat and sought a "fair, reasonable and acceptable"
solution to the contentious boundary issue which has been engaging
the two big neighbours ever since the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict.

China said Mr Mukherjee's visit was "important" and that it attaches
great importance to it. They would exchange views on a "series of
issues," including the boundary row on which it said discussions had
made "some progress" in recent years.

"The two sides have reached a consensus which is that both are
important neighbours and partners to each other. The two countries
will not regard each other as a threat," foreign ministry spokesman
Mr Qin Gang told a regular bi-weekly media briefing in Beijing.

A statement observers felt were to assuage feelings in the wake of
the midnight summoning of the Indian Ambassador in Beijing, Mrs
Nirupama Rao, which India too had sought to play down.

Mr Mukherjee is visiting China at the invitation of his Chinese
counterpart, Mr Yang Jiechi. Mr Mukherjee will also hold talks with
Prime Minister Mr Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders.

His visit to China is the first by an external affairs minister since
2002 when Mr Jaswant Singh visited the country and also a maiden one
for him since he assumed office.
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