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Chinese premier visits India

May 20, 2013

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang has vowed to increase "mutual trust" with India in his first trip abroad since assuming office. Talks with Indian leaders are expected to focus on trade and recent border tensions.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wave towards the media during Li's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
Image: Reuters

Li (pictured left above) stressed the need for cooperation between China and India on Monday during three-day talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

"The purpose of my current visit to India is three-fold - to increase mutual trust, to intensify cooperation and to face the future," Li said in a joint press conference with Singh.

"On the basis of deeper mutual trust, our two countries can further deepen our mutual understanding and construct a new type of relations between major countries, promote healthy and sound development of China and India," he added.

Li arrived in the Indian capital New Delhi on Sunday, where he held the first round of informal talks with Singh. He said his visit to India for his first trip abroad "indicates the great importance that Beijing attaches to its relations" with the country.

The two leaders emphasized the need to resolve a border dispute in the Himalayas, according to India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin. The neighbors have held 15 rounds of talks on the disputed region since 2001.

In early April, a diplomatic row flared up between Beijing and New Delhi over the disputed region. India alleged that Chinese troops had penetrated 20 kilometers (12 miles) into its territory. A three-week standoff between Indian and Chinese forces ensued, which was resolved in early May when both sides agreed to withdraw.

Pressure to call off visit

The incident raised nationalist ire in India, with the political opposition and media pressuring the government to call off Li's visit. But New Delhi stuck with the trip, saying it was seeking to widen cooperation with Beijing while resolving disagreements.

The border between the neighbors is poorly defined, with Beijing claiming some 90,000 square kilometers in India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi already accuses Beijing of occupying some 38,000 square kilometers of its territory in the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas. They fought a brief but bloody war over their disputed border in 1962.

Talks aim to expand trade

Talks on Monday between Li and Singh are also expected to focus on trade. China has become India's largest trading partner, amounting to $66 billion (51 billion euros) in 2012. But that was down from $73 billion in 2011 due to global economic weakness.

The nuclear-armed neighbors aim to boost their trade to $100 billion by 2015. But their economic relationship is currently skewed in Beijing's favor. Prime Minister Singh has said that he wants to find way to even out India's $29-billion trade deficit with China.

Li is also scheduled to meet with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid and senior figures in the main opposition party, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. On Tuesday, the Chinese premier plans to attend a business summit in India's financial hub, Mumbai.

ccp, slk/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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