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Friday, May 18, 2001

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India, China to firm up economic ties


By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 17. Acknowledging their differences on the existing U.S. proposals for a new international security architecture, India and China have decided to consolidate their economic ties and address their boundary question urgently.

Talks between the visiting Chinese Communist Party politburo member, Mr. Li Chang Chun, and the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, went beyond the visit to India by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Richard Armitage, and Washington's plans for a National Missile Defence (NMD) shield. Aware of their differences, Mr. Singh explained India's stand on the subject. Mr. Li reiterated his country's reservations to the U.S.-backed security architecture.

Advocating ``pragmatism'', Mr. Li said that both sides should consciously avoid exaggerating their differences and treat them as stray episodes in a relationship which can be traced to antiquity.

Notwithstanding their differences, both sides did cover some common ground. Referring to the existing international system, they rejected the concept of unipolar world which solely revolved around the U.S. Instead, they reiterated their support for promoting multiple centres of political, economic and military power across the globe.

They also agreed not to interfere in each other's internal affairs as envisaged by the Panchsheel. But India indicated its reservations on certain aspects of China's ties with Pakistan. Mr. Singh made a pointed reference to the need for ``sensitivity'' by both sides to ``each other's concerns.'' India has been particularly unhappy with the transfer of Chinese nuclear missiles to Pakistan.

Both leaders made three additional points. First, they felt that the relationship on balance was essentially cooperative as their commanalities far outweighed the differences. Second, both countries were keenly interested in carrying forward a vigorous engagement in all fields, notwithstanding the hurdles on the way.

Third, they acknowledged that they could speed up the settlement of their border row and consequently enhance stability in the region.

According to the foreign office spokesman, Mr. Li's visit was not triggered by the developments related to NMD. The focus of the visit - which had been planned in advance - was not on security issues, but on ways to boost business ties. As one of the young architects of the China's east coast turnaround, Mr. Li has shown considerable interest in tie-ups with India in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Not surprisingly, he has already met the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu, and visited the hi-tech park in Hyderabad. He will meet the Information Technology Minister, Mr. Pramod Mahajan, on Friday.

Consistent with the China's intention making deeper crucial inroads in India, Mr. Li advocated a regular interaction the ``provincial''and the national level.

Earlier, he visited Mumbai and addressed a high-profile corporate seminar at the Bombay Chambers of Commerce where most prominent industrialists were present.

A technocrat and an economic reformer, 57-year-old Mr. Li has been the youngest ever member of the politburo, who has agreed to share the experience China's economic boom in the Guangdong province with his Indian hosts. Three of China's five special economic zones which have led to spectacular export led growth in its eastern provinces belong to Guangdong.

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