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India, China for 'early' settlement of boundary question
New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI) Heralding a new dimension in bilateral ties, India and China today agreed to work for "early" settlement of the vexed boundary question, establish a strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity and further promote exchanges in the military field.

After wide-ranging discussions here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed a landmark Joint Statement and witnessed the signing of 12 accords, including a protocol on modalities for implementation of confidence building measures in the military field along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

In a path-breaking agreement outlining 11 political parameters and guiding principles, the two sides decided to make "meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments" to their respective positions on the boundary question to arrive at a "package settlement" which is "final" covering all sectors of the India-China boundary.

The agreement, signed by Special Representatives M K Narayanan, National Security Adviser, and Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, said the two sides would give due consideration to each other's "strategic and reasonable interests", and the principle of mutual and equal security.

Declaring that differences on the boundary question should not be allowed to affect the overall development of bilateral ties, the two sides decided to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the vexed issue through consultations on an "equal footing".

They agreed to take into account historical evidence, national sentiments, practical difficulties and reasonable concerns and sensitivities of both sides, and the actual state of border areas.

After intensive negotiations, the two sides agreed that the boundary should be along "well-defined and easily identifiable" natural geographical features to be mutually agreed upon.

In reaching the boundary settlement, the two sides should safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.

The Joint Statement said both sides were convinced that an "early settlement of the boundary question will advance the basic interests of the two countries and should, therefore, be pursued as a strategic objective."

The two sides agreed to complete the process of exchanging maps indicating their respective perceptions of the entire alignment of the LAC to arrive at a "common understanding" as soon as possible.

The two sides inked a protocol on modalities for the implementation of CBMs in the military field along the LAC under which they agreed to avoid holding large scale military exercises involving more than one Division (approximately 15,000 troops) in close proximity to the LAC.

Singh and Wen, who held an hour-long restricted-level meeting before going in for delegation-level parleys, warmly shook hands after signing the joint statement.

Going by their assurance that Sikkim was no longer an issue between China and India, the joint statement said both sides reviewed with satisfaction the implementation of the memorandum on border trade through the Nathula Pass between the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China and "Sikkim State of the Republic of India".

On its part, India reiterated that it recognised TAR as part of China's territory and that it would not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China activities on its soil.

The Chinese side said "India is an important developing country and is having increasingly important influence in the international arena" as New Delhi affirmed its claim for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council.

Both agreed that UN reforms should be "comprehensive and multifaceted" with emphasis on increased representation of developing countries. China said it attached "great importance" to the status of India in international affairs and "understands and supports" New Delhi's aspirations to pay an active role in the UN.

Aware of the threats posed by terrorism to peace and security to the two countries and the whole world, India and China agreed to further consolidate their cooperation to combat the menace.

They underlined the need for strengthening global legal framework to deal with terrorism.

The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on major liberalisation of civil aviation links.

They agreed to joint efforts to increase the bilateral trade volume to US dollar 20 billion or higher by 2008 decided to cooperate in the field of energy security and conservation besides encouraging joint exploration of petroleum and natural gas resources in third countries.

Supporting an open, fair, equitable and transparent rule-based multilateral trade system, they resolved to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries while strengthening cooperation in the WTO and other international multilateral organisations.

The accords cover cooperation in Customs matters, launch of India-China financial dialogue, on exporting grapes from India to China besides an MoU on provision of hydrological information on the Sutlej/Langqen Zangbo river in flood season by China to India.

The statement said that Wen's visit marked a "new level of India-China relationship and opened a new chapter in the friendly ties and cooperation between the two countries".

Wen, who called on President A P J Abdul Kalam and other leaders, invited Singh to visit China.

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