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Chinese PM ready to advance pace of Sino-India border talks

Anil K Joseph in Beijing | June 21, 2003 14:19 IST

On the eve of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China, his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on Saturday said Beijing is ready to advance the pace of talks for a 'fair' and 'mutually acceptable' solution to the vexed Sino-India boundary issue and emphasised the need for keeping the border areas peaceful.

In a wide-ranging interview to Indian journalists before Vajpayee's six-day official visit to China from Sunday, Wen,
who became premier in March, said the boundary issue is "a historical burden on our two countries left over by the colonialists."

"The Chinese side stands for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the issue, a solution that can be found through bilateral talks in accordance with the principles of consultation on an equal footing, mutual understanding, mutual accommodation and mutual adjustment," Wen said.

He said that while the two sides are negotiating a solution to the border issue, Beijing and New Delhi should do their "very best" to keep the border areas peaceful and tranquil.

He allayed fears that China might emerge as a threat and seek hegemony in the region because of its rising economic and military might.

On Vajpayee's visit, the first by an Indian prime minister in a decade, Wen said it "will have a positive impact on bilateral relations and regional peace and stability."

Senior Chinese foreign ministry officials this week indicated that the boundary issue would be on top of the agenda of Chinese leaders who would meet Vajpayee separately during his three-day stay in Beijing.

India accuses China of occupying approximately 38,000 square km of territory in Kashmir. In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan 'boundary agreement' of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir to China.

At the same time, China lays claim to 90,000 sq km land in Arunachal Pradesh.
 
Officials from the two sides have met 15 times since late 1980s in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the border dispute. However, little progress has been achieved with both sides only managing to exchange sample maps of the middle sector, the least contentious among the eastern, middle and western sectors.

Wen said he was looking forward to meeting Vajpayee in Beijing on Monday for their first-ever contact. The Chinese
Premier is scheduled to host an official welcoming ceremony for Vajpayee at the Great Hall of the People, followed by
official talks.

Describing India as China's 'important neighbour,' he stressed that developing friendly and good-neighbourly relations and cooperation with India on the basis of the five principles of peaceful co-existence is a key part of our diplomacy with countries in our surrounding areas.
 
"China-India relations have maintained a momentum of steady growth in recent years. I am glad to see the positive development of the relationship and have great confidence in the broad prospects of the bilateral cooperation," Wen said.

When asked to comment on China's stand on Kashmir, Wen said the problem is a legacy from the past between India and Pakistan, and it involves conflicting territorial claims, religion, ethnicity and other complex factors. "More than 50 years of India-Pakistan conflict has shown that use of force can get them nowhere. As a neighbour and friend to both India and Pakistan, China has always urged the two countries to seek an effective solution to the Kashmir problem through peaceful dialogue."

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