Hopes of fresh impetus to ties as PM, Wen begin talks (Second Lead)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - India and China Thursday began crucial delegation level talks here with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Thursday hoping for “strategic consensus” and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that a strong partnership would contribute to long term peace and security in Asia.

Wen, who arrived here Wednesday for a three-day visit, pitched for taking friendship between India and China to a higher level.

“With our joint efforts, we will be able to take our friendship and cooperation to a higher level in the 21st century,” the Chinese premier told reporters here at Rashtrapati Bhavan where he was accorded a ceremonial reception. He was warmly received by President Pratibha Patil and Manmohan Singh.

“In our talks, we will be able to reach strategic consensus,” Wen said amid Indias concerns over a host of issues, including stapled visas given to residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

The visit will yield important outcomes, he said with Manmohan Singh standing next to him. He expressed confidence that his visit would expand ties between the two countries.

A little later, the prime minister said before beginning talks with the visiting leader at the Hyderabad House here that rapid economic growth had opened up new opportunities for cooperation.

He said a “strong partnership between India and China will contribute to long term peace and security in Asia”.

The prime minister also underlined that he had met Chinese leaders, including Wen and President Hu Jintao, 20 times in the last five years. This, he said, showed the “intensity of contacts” between the two countries.

Welcoming Wen and the high-level Chinese team, he added that the ongoing visit would give “new impetus” to the relations between the two countries and provide “new opportunities for progress and stability”.

The two leaders shook hands warmly before going in for the delegation level talks, aimed at building trust and addressing India’s concerns on a host of issues, including stapled visas for people from Jammu and Kashmir.

The two sides are expected to sign a clutch of agreements in areas ranging from media and cultural exchanges to sharing of hydrological data. They are also expected to announce the decision to activate a hotline between the leaders of the two countries, officials indicated.

Wen, who is on his second visit to India in the last five years, is accompanied by 400 business-persons.

On Wednesday evening, the prime minister hosted hosted a private dinner for the Chinese leader and aired concerns over the issue of China’s stapled visas. The two leaders agreed that the two countries were partners and not rivals in a changing world order, informed sources said.

Taking up the issue of stapled visas, Manmohan Singh reminded the Chinese premier of the compelling need for both sides to be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. He let it be known that Kashmir was a core concern for India just as Taiwan and Tibet were for Beijing.

Manmohan Singh is also understood to have sought China’s support for India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council.

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