India, China to discuss stapled visas, to launch CEOs forum

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NEW DELHI - India and China will try to iron out differences over a host of contentious issues, including stapled visas for residents of Jammu and Kashmir, as the two sides gear up to launch a CEOs forum to push bilateral trade during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s three-day visit here starting Wednesday.

Wen begins his trip to India, his second to the country, Wednesday afternoon with a visit to the Tagore International School, where he will informally interact with schoolchildren and tell them about Chinese culture, Tai-chi and calligraphy, informed sources told IANS.

He is also expected to announce at the school China’s decision to provide textual and audio-visual material to Indian schools to help teach Mandarin. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has already announced plans to introduce Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language in its 11,000 affiliated schools from Class 6 onwards next year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will host a dinner for the Chinese leader at 7 Race Course Road official residence in the evening.

During his one-on-one meeting with Wen before the dinner, Manmohan Singh is expected to air India’s concerns over the Chinese practice of issuing stapled visas for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and seek a commitment from the Chinese leader to end this practice, which has shadowed bilateral relations in recent years, informed sources said.

Manmohan Singh is also expected to tell Wen that India sees the relationship with China as one of the most important of the 21st century and is ready to take them to new heights, the sources added.

Wen will be accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan Thursday morning before he sits down for delegation-level talks with Manmohan Singh.

Trade-related issues, specially the $19.2 billion deficit, will figure prominently in the discussions. India will pitch for greater market access for Indian goods in the Chinese market as wells as greater Chinese investment, specially in the infrastructure sector, into India.

India is hoping that China would come out with a clearer affirmation of its support for it’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council at the talks.

China had conveyed earlier it understood India’s aspiration to play a greater role in the UN, but has not gone beyond its oft-repeated position. China is the only permanent member of the Security Council which has yet to declare its support for India’s candidacy.

The two sides are expected to discuss all issues of concern, including stapled visas, Chinese investment in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, the boundary issue and the cross-border rivers. They will also discuss a host of global issues, including the UN reforms, the global financial crisis, climate change and global terrorism.

The chiefs of top Chinese firms like power equipment major Shanghai Electric, metals refiner SinoSteel and telecom gear giants ZTE and Huewei are among 400 business leaders accompanying Wen.

Deals worth some $20 billion in finance, infrastructure, energy, telecom and pharma are likely to be finalised during the visit — a third more than $15 billion worth of pacts unveiled during US President Barack Obama’s visit here last month.

China has stressed on the development of diversified trade, tourism and investment cooperation for reducing the trade imbalance (currently in favour of China) and achieving the bilateral target of $60 billion this year. The two sides are expected to set a more ambitious trade target of $100 billion in a few years, added the sources.

During Wen’s last visit to India in 2005, the two sides finalized guiding principles and political parameters for resolving their boundary dispute.

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