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June 4, 2000
'The Chinese are taking us seriously because they think we have the potential to become a major economic power'
Nikhil Lakshman aboard AI I
The President feels that relations between China and India can only move forward swiftly on "equality and mutual appreciation" if India can show that "we are developing successfully," Rashtrapati Bhavan sources told newsmen aboard the special Presidential flight on its way back from Kunming in southwest China.
"Much will depend on our internal strengths, our economic wellbeing, our ability to remain united," the sources said, assessing the outcome of President K R Narayanan's seven day visit to China which ended on Saturday.
"We have to develop ourselves just as they are doing," the sources said. "Everywhere the President went, there was acknowledgement of our software industry. If we make such progress, such acknowledgements will come."
"The Chinese are taking us seriously because they think we have the potential to become a major economic power. We have to move quickly to realising our economic potential," the sources said, adding that the President had emphasised the need to add an economic spin to the Sino-Indian relationship.
"The President told them if anything was lacking in our relationship, it was an economic covenant. Since both countries are developing fast, he told the Chinese leadership that it is time to put economic content in bilateral relations," they added.
On most issues Narayanan discussed with the Chinese leaders, the sources disclosed that there was a "meeting of minds."
"The Chinese leaders appeared really interested in improving relations with India. The President got an impression that they were sincere and would not like to spoilt the friendliness that prevailed," the sources said.
Since Chinese President Jiang Zemin did not raise India's nuclear agenda -- which has been a contentious issue with the Chinese since May 1998 -- the President, they reiterated, opted to drop a paragraph on the nuclear issue from his speech to Peking University last Tuesday. "Their silence on the nuclear issue was good," the sources felt, "since it avoided introducing a jarring note in the discussions."
"The purpose of the President's visit was to create a friendly atmosphere for relations between both countries, and that objective was met. The atmosphere was very, very friendly," the sources asserted, clearly relieved that the exercise had gone well.
Asked what the President had meant when he told a group of scholars from the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences on Friday that India's relations with China had reached a state of "criticality," the sources explained that Narayayan believed both nations had reached a stage "where we can resolve bilateral problems and enter a new age of the relationship. If both countries can translate their pronouncements into action," then progress can be very swift.
The boundary issue, which has been at the heart of Sino-Indian relations and led to the 1962 war, the sources said, was "not discussed in depth with the Chinese leaders, but references were made to it, that it should be resolved soon, rather than later."
The President stressed the need to speed up the process for the delineation of the Line of Actual Control, a move that has already been initiated by the Experts Groups of both countries. "The President's brief was not to discuss the border issue on this visit, but stress the great importance in resolving this matter soon. Once we delineate the LAC, it can be a precondition for settlement of the border issue," they said.
The delineation of the LAC, they said, would be an important achievement "if we can speed it up." Asked if the delineation would mean that it became the de facto border between China and India, they said, "it can be an interim way of living, not a permanent resolution of the border dispute."
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