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'India ready to work for a fair and reasonable solution to border dispute with China'

India is prepared to work with China to resolve outstanding differences on the boundary question and work for a settlement that is ''fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable.''

Speaking at a dinner he had hosted in honour of Chinese Pr esident Jiang Zemin, President Shankar Dayal Sharma said ''Happily, our border is peaceful. Both sides are determined that it should remain so.''

The President said it was possible for the two countries to jointly address other issues on which their positions differed.

''We must seek to deepen and broaden, through dialogue, our mutual understanding since the dividend from this effort is peace, stability and co-operation in our relations,'' Dr Sharma added.

In recent years, the President said India-China's bilateral co-operation had expanded significantly but the potential was immense. ''We must give a renewed impetus to our bilateral trade, economic co-operation and technological collaboration,'' he added.

The Chinese president, accompanied by a high-level delegation, arrived in New Delhi on Thursday afternoon to a red carpet welcome on a three-day state visit. Speaking to reporters, Jiang said the two countries would engage in an intensive exchange of views to resolve outstanding differences.

Jiang, the first Chinese president to visit India, was received by President Sharma and Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Earlier, as he landed at the Delhi military airport in his special aircraft, he was received by External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral.

Jiang, who is also the general secretary of the Chinese Communist party and chairman of the military commission, is accompanied by Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Minister Wu Yi, Civil Affairs Minister Doji Cering and chairman of the Tibetan autonomous region Gyancian Norbu.

Later, at the banquet on Thursday night, referring to the exchange of high-level visits between India and China since 1988 when former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi went to Beijing, Dr Sharma said, ''We take satisfaction from the growth of mutual understanding and co-operation evidenced in the bilateral agreements that have come about as a result of these exchanges.''

The President added that India-China relations had acquired new maturity and content.

Referring to the international situation, Dr Sharma said India and China, countries and civilisational entities of sub-continental size, could not be passive spectators in this changing environment. ''Our co-operation is critical to its evolution. The co-operation and friendship of Asia's two largest nations would be a powerful and enduring factor in promoting peace and stability in our continent and the world,'' he added.

Dr Sharma said friendship between India and China was dictated by the logic of history and the needs of the present. ''Our friendship is beneficial to the fundamental interests of our two peoples. Your visit to India affords us an opportunity to assess the current state and prospects of our relationship until the end of the century and beyond,'' he added.

"Together," the President said, "we can explore a long-term vision of India-China relations oriented to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. We can explore how our two nations should proceed along the path of good neighbourly relations that we have embarked upon. For our part, India seeks a relationship of constructive co-operation with our largest neighbour, China."

Responding, Jiang said though the two countries still had some outstanding problems left over from history, ''I can say for sure that our common interests far outweigh our differences, as neither of us poses a threat to the other.''

Stating that ''we all need a peaceful environment and many more friends,'' the Chinese president said, ''we should trust each other and conduct mutually beneficial co-operation.''

Jiang said he was confident that ''so long as the two countries adhered to the five principles of peaceful co-existence, viewing and handling our relations from a long-term perspective, we, the two great nations of broad-mindedness and wisdom that pioneered human civilisation, will surely bring a co-operative and constructive partnership into the 21st century.''

Meanwhile, Pakistan said it sees no change in China's policy towards the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.

A foreign ministry spokesman in islamabad claimed that irrespective of the reported statement by the Chinese ambassador in India that China was opposed to internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute, Beijing continued to support the Kashmiri people's right to decide their future.

''I think one should not blow it out of proportion or context. It does not mean a reversal of the Chinese policy,'' the spokesman advised reporters who sought his comments on the Chinese envoy's statement made on the eve of Jiang's state visits to India, Pakistan and Nepal.

Formal discussions between China and India on bilateral, regional and international issues are scheduled for Friday when three agreements would be signed. The agreements are aimed at ensuring that the India-China border continues to remain peaceful, permitting India to open a consulate-general office in Hong Kong after it reverts to Chinese sovereignty in July and launching of an India-China effort in curbing crime and drug trafficking.

Jiang will visit Agra on Saturday and leave for Pakistan the next day, the first time a Chinese leader will visit that country after paying a visit to India.


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