India, China to be global partners, co-operate in n-energy
Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 06:00 Hrs | 1 Comments
New Delhi: India and China, Asia's giants who are powering the continent's growth, resolved to put the border dispute behind them as they took their strategic ties to a new level by agreeing to double bilateral trade and even promote civilian nuclear energy cooperation between them.
Firmly placing their burgeoning relations in the context of a changed world order, both countries - the world's two most populous nations - underlined the new synergy and maturity of their relationship and sent the signal to the world that they are "not rivals or competitors" but can together contribute to peace and prosperity of not only Asia but the world.
In a visit that was expected to be high on atmospherics but low on substance, the two countries surprised the sceptics by signing a comprehensive joint declaration that outlined the new template of all-encompassing cooperation, decided on steps to boost trans-border connectivity and signed 13 agreements in trade, agriculture and education.
"As two major countries in the emerging multi-polar global order the simultaneous development of India and China will have a positive influence on the future international system," a joint declaration issued after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao said.
In the area of civilian nuclear cooperation, the two nuclear powers made a significant advance and agreed to promote civilian nuclear cooperation within the ambit of their respective international commitments.
Although the issue of Beijing's support for the India-US civilian nuclear deal was not formally taken up, going by positive support to New Delhi's energy security agenda it is likely that Beijing, a member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, will not play a spoiler to New Delhi's civil nuclear energy claims in the NSG.
"International civil nuclear cooperation should be advanced through innovative and forward-looking approaches, while safeguarding the effectiveness of international non-proliferation principles," said the nuanced joint declaration.
This should be heartening for India coming as it as it does four days after the US Senate voted for a similar tie-up between Washington and New Delhi.
And in other measures aimed at promoting strategic cooperation between two of the world's fast growing economies, India and China agreed to double bilateral trade to $40 billion by 2010, upgrade bilateral ties to a "qualitatively new level" by holding summit level meetings and open additional consulates-general in Kolkata and Guangzhou in China.
Also, for the first time, their foreign ministers will have a hotline.
"The nature and range of agreements signed today point to the consolidation and diversification of our bilateral relations," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after 40-minute one-one-one talks with Hu, who arrived Monday on a four-day visit, the first by a Chinese head of state to India in 10 years.
"President Hu and I have agreed that the positive development of India-China relations in recent years must be made irreversible," he added.
The highlight of Tuesday, the first full day of Hu's trip that was marked by sporadic protests by Tibetans, was the decision by India and China to expand their cooperation in civilian nuclear energy.
"India and China have an ongoing programme in this regard. It is not as though we are starting from the scratch. Beijing supplied fuel for Tarapur plant in the early nineties," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said.
Manmohan Singh elaborated the point at a press conference he addressed along with Hu. "Cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear energy will be promoted."
The Chinese leader whole-heartedly agreed with the sentiments expressed by Manmohan Singh. And in words reminiscent of the "Hindi-China Bhai Bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers)" era of the fifties, he went on to say: "I convey to the people of India the best wishes of the Chinese people. India is a great country and Indians are a great people."
"China and India are both major developing countries and our relationship has global significance," Hu said, adding the two sides will expand cooperation in areas such as trade, energy, agriculture and investment.
"Both India and China are fully confident of this relationship," Hu stressed, referring to the sustained border talks that have bit by bit shed the bitterness generated by the 1962 war over territorial claims -- an issue that is unresolved but which no more comes in the way of growing friendship.
The two countries agreed to accelerate their efforts to find "fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution" to the border dispute at an early date and called the resolution of their decades-old border row as "the strategic goal of the relationship."
Manmohan Singh and Hu have also asked their special representatives on the boundary issue to "hasten" the process of finding the solution on the basis of guiding principles and political parameters agreed during the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last year and fix dates for their next round of talks.
Another important achievement of the visit was the foucs on accelerating people-to-people contacts and trans-border connectivity.
Designating 2007 as the China-India Friendship Year for Tourism, holding of a car rally between Kolkata and Kunming via Bangldesh and Myanmar, opening more border trade posts - Bumla and Demchok are likely to be opened soon -- and promoting youth exchanges were some of the confidence-building measures agreed between the two sides.
In the crucial area of the UN Security Council reforms, the two sides agreed in principle for strengthening the UN system and hold consultations on the issue but Beijing's guarded response to India's bid for a permanent seat in the seat in the UN Security Council came as a bit of disappointment for New Delhi. "China attaches great importance to the status of India in international affairs. It understands and supports India's aspirations to play a greater rule in the UN," is all the joint declaration would say.
The 13 agreements the two countries signed covered diverse areas including protection of bilateral investment, trading of iron ore and export of rice, agriculture, education, forestry and the conservation of cultural heritage.
In his remarks earlier Tuesday after he inspected a military guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace, Hu sounded upbeat as he spoke about further developing "strategic cooperation" between New Delhi and Beijing.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Manmohan Singh were on hand to greet Hu, who last came to India 22 years ago.
Manmohan Singh said he and Hu had "cordial, open and constructive talks focusing on our bilateral relations and cooperation on regional and multilateral issues".
"President Hu and I appreciate the progress the two Special Representatives have made in their discussions on the boundary question. We are asking them to accelerate their efforts to arrive at a boundary settlement...
"We agree that an early boundary settlement will advance the basic interests of the two countries... Such a settlement will invest our strategic partnership with further strength and dynamism."
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