Wen to visit Delhi this year as India, China strive for harmony

Hanoi, Oct 29 (Calcutta Tube) China reached out to India Friday amid continuing undercurrents of tension, with Premier Wen Jiabao telling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the outset of their much-awaited meeting that he would like to visit Delhi this year and the Indian leader responding he was ‘very glad’.

‘You have on many occasions issued an invitation to me to visit your country, and my preliminary information indicates that I will pay a visit to your country by the end of this year,’ Wen said in his introductory remarks while stressing that the two leaders should ‘discuss and reach a consensus on major aspects to lay a foundation for the visit’.

Manmohan Singh, who is here to attend India-Asean and East Asia summits, responded on a similar note, pointing out that they had met 10 times in the last six years and each time had been a ‘very rewarding experience’.

‘We are very keen that during the 60th year of establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, your excellency should find it possible to visit our country and I am very glad to know from you that the visit could take place by the end of this year,’ he said as flashbulbs popped and TV cameras whirred.

The meeting comes amid persisting differences between the world’s two most populous countries on a variety of issues, the most important of them being the long pending boundary dispute and Jammu and Kashmir.

Two days after Manmohan Singh reiterated before an audience in Malaysia that the world was ‘large enough to accommodate the growth ambitions of both countries’, Wen recalled the words and said: ‘To that I add that there is enough space in the world for India and China to have cooperation.’

Suggesting that they ‘discuss and reach a consensus on some major aspects’ to lay the foundation for his visit, the Chinese leader said: ‘We have both viewed and handled our bilateral relationship with a strong sense of history…’

The meeting, also attended by National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Secretary-East Lata Reddy as well as four cabinet ministers from the Chinese side, went on for about 40 minutes after that.

With the issue of China’s insistence to give stapled visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir and the boundary dispute dominating the India-China landscape, Manmohan Singh brought up the issue of sensitivities to each other’s core issues.

‘The prime minister spoke of sensitivities to each other’s core issues. Both spoke of the determination relations forward,’ Menon told reporters later.

He added that the meeting was ‘warm and friendly and covered the entire gamut of the relationship.

‘During the discussion on bilateral relations, both took a broader strategic view and expressed satisfaction at the development of relations. They also discussed specifics.’

Menon said both sides looked forward to ‘an early resolution of the border issue’.

Pending settlement of the contentious issue, the two countries would ‘maintain peace and tranquility in the area’, he said, adding there was a need to carry forward the process from the parameters of the agreement signed in 2005.

The special representatives would be meeting on the issue in Beijing before the end of November, he said.

Expressing confidence that the upcoming Wen visit would be ‘successful and productive’, Menon described Friday’s meeting as a ‘high level review where both sides resolved to carry the relationship forward on a positive track’.

The meeting had given ‘new impetus’, he said, to special representatives and officials who have been told to work their way to find a solution and continue the process of engagement.

Wen said he was ‘very conscious’ of the trade imbalance between the two countries and outlined some of the steps taken. Both sides, according to Menon, expressed satisfaction that in the first nine months of the year, two way trade had hit $45 billion, on way to achieving the $60 billion target for 2010.

But the imbalance still exists, he said, also noting that some high level defence exchanges continue to be paused.

He described the visit of politburo member Zhou Yong Kang as important and an opportunity to have a ‘broader view and freer exchange of ideas with the Chinese’.

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