Beijing, Oct 23 — Six months after their three-week tense border standoff, India and China Wednesday inked a key agreement to establish peace along their disputed border besides signing a slew of agreements to boost economic cooperation as their leaders agreed they have “more common interests than differences”.
Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who had visited India in May in his first overseas visit after assuming office, said he was “sure” the deal will help to restore peace and tranquility in the border areas.
Besides the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), India and China inked eight other agreements as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li met for talks in the Great Hall of the People.
The BDCA comes after Chinese troops intruded inside Indian territory in Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir April 16, leading to a three-week fragile situation that was resolved after hectic negotiations. Repeated incidents along their 4,000-km boundary are ascribed to “differing perceptions”.
India also raised the issue of Beijing giving stapled visas to two sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh which China lays claim over and considers “disputed”.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, briefing newspersons, said “the stapled visa issue did come up”.
The issuance of stapled visas had adversely affected China’s efforts to get India to agree to a liberalised visa regime for its businesspersons. The Indian cabinet, which was to approve an agreement on liberal visa agreement with Beijing ahead of the prime minister’s visit, postponed the decision after the stapled visa incident, according to knowledgeable sources.
India also raised its concerns about China planning to build nuclear reactors in Pakistan. Foreign Secretary Singh said the issue did figure but declined to elaborate.
Both sides also inked an agreement on trans-border rivers with China agreeing to share hydrological information on the Brahmaputra for 15 more days and also discuss “other issues” – in a tacit agreement of India’s lower riparian rights. India has consistently voiced its concerns about China’s dam building activity upstream on the Brahmaputra.
China also became a signatory to the establishment of the Nalanda University, coming up in Bihar, under the aegis of the East Asia Summit. Both sides inked an agreement on cooperation on road transport and setting up of sister cities – between Delhi-Beijing, Bengaluru-Chengdu and Kolkata-Kunming.
According to the border agreement, troops of India and China will not tail each other’s patrols and during face-to-face situations both sides will exercise maximum self-restraint. It also envisages a hotline between the headquarters of the two armies, the right to ask for clarifications about the other side’s troop activity and getting the troops into “more friendly” interactions with each other.
It reiterates that “neither side shall use its military capability against the other side and their respective military strengths shall not be used to attack the other side”.
Premier Li said he and Manmohan Singh were in agreement that both had “more common interests than differences” and both had confidence that the leadership of both sides “have the ability to manage differences along the border”.
Li said both had agreed on strategic defence cooperation and to hold joint counter terrorism exercises in southwest China as well as joint maritime exercises at an early date.
On trade and economic issues, Li said both sides had agreed to make full use of their existing mechanisms and China was ready to expand its foray in infrastructure development, including in railways in India. He also pushed for the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor to link up between their two countries.
He said China is keen to establish industrial zones in India to expand Chinese investments in India and make two-way trade “more dynamic”.
Both sides also inked an agreement on cultural exchanges. Li said the agreement on sister cities would give a “strong boost to cooperation” and “inject more dynamism to China-India relations”.
In between their serious talks on border issues and boosting strategic ties, visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went sightseeing to the Forbidden City with his Chinese host, Premier Li Keqiang. Manmohan Singh spent around 45 minutes at the 15th century complex, built by the Ming dynasty.
The prime minister, who arrived here Tuesday, is on a three-day visit.
Thursday, he is to meet He Yiting, the executive vice president of the Central Party School and give an address at the school. He then attends a lunch banquet hosted by former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao before departing for home early evening.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at [email protected])