NEW DELHI (TIP): India and China took a leap towards reducing recurring tensions across the border and promised to strengthen cooperation on trans-border rivers, even as New Delhi delayed a pact for a liberalised visa regime. The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) was among the nine pacts the two countries signed here at the conclusion of talks between the two sides led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Li Keqiang. The BDCA envisages having incremental interaction across levels starting with border personnel meetings at designated places along the 4,000-km border; periodic meetings between officers of the Military Regions of China and Army Commands of India, and similar meetings between representatives of Defence Ministry on either side; meetings of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination; and the regular Sino-India annual defence dialogue. The Prime Minister also met President Xi Jingping, who underscored the need for the two countries to charter a course for the future need to stand tall and look far.
The Prime Minister invited Xi to visit India, while the Chinese President promised to take New Delhi’s concern on river water into account from a human angle. China’s assistance to Pakistan was also brought up during the meetings with the two Chinese leaders. Underscoring the significance of Prime Minister Singh’s visit, Premier Li noted that this was the first time since 1954 that exchange visits of Prime Minister of India and Chinese Premier took place within the same calendar year. Premier Li came to India in May, the first overseas country he chose to start international engagement after assuming the office. Both India and China held wide ranging talks on bilateral, regional and international issues and arrived at a broad consensus and reaffirmed their commitment to take forward the “Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity” for its 2.5 billion people. As Prime Minister Singh characterised the development at the joint press conference: “When India and China shake hands, the world takes notice.” He noted that both India and China had agreed that as large neighbours, the relationship pursued with other countries following independent foreign policy should not become a cause for concern for each other. “This will be our strategic reassurance.” Prime Minister Singh and Premier Li mentioned that both sides had agreed to strengthen strategic communication at all levels, including on shared neighbourhood in order to build mutual trust.
The liberalised visa regime that would have enhanced extended period of stay for business visitors was put on the hold by India to convey its unease over the decision to give stapled visas to two archers from Arunachal Pradesh recently. India did not allow the sportspersons to take part in the event in China and raised the issue during the talks today. But having placed the issue on the table, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said it would remain in discussion. Asserting Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of the country, India felt the state cannot be discriminated against by such a policy which China felt was a practice followed by countries in some cases. Through the Memorandum of Understanding on trans-border rivers pertaining to Brahmaputra or Yaluzangbu, as the Chinese call it, both agreed to extend the hydrological data provision period during flood season in China from May 15 to October 15, instead of existing start period of June 1 each year. The two will further strengthen cooperation and cooperate through existing Expert Level Mechanism on provision of flood-season hydrological data and emergency management.
India has expressed concerns over China’s plans to construct a series of dams across the river as an upper riparian state. Manmohan Singh said Premier Li was receptive when he expressed concern about the unsustainable trade imbalance and explore avenues to bridge the gap. India agreed to take forward the suggestion by Premier Li for setting up an industrial park to attract investment from China to India. India faces an adverse trade balance of up to 42 per cent while bilateral trade touched $ 62 billion last year as against the 2015 target of $100 billion. Around the time the two leaders were meeting, CEOs Forum of India and China were engaged in a discussion in an adjoining room of the Great Hall of the People. Besides, both countries envisage further discussion on concept of alignment of the ambitious BMIC (Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and China) economic corridor. Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Ahluwalia said besides understanding on water efficiency, railway modernisation was being looked at as an idea including technology for heavy haul of freight and increasing speed of trains.