Durban, March 28 (IANS) The new Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping has told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh it will continue to pursue the positive groundwork laid down by its predecessors to improve ties between the two Asian neighbours, notwithstanding the long-pending border dispute.
This was the outcome of two significant meetings Xi had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, one on the margins of the BRICS Summit Wednesday and the other a more structured two-way engagement hours later.
It was also their first eye-to-eye contact since Xi assumed presidentship two weeks ago.
“The Chinese president, in fact, himself told our prime minister that he knew about the good bomding our prime minister shared with his predecessors,” an Indian official told IANS, referring to Manmohan Singh’s associations with former Chinese president Hu Jintao and former premier Wen Jiabao.
“‘I would like to continue that relationship’, that’s what he said when the two met,” the official said, referring to their first meaningful contact between the Chinese and the Indian leader during a luncheon meeting of the 5th BRICS Summit.
The two also met formally later at night — hours of delays after their scheduled bilateral engagement set for post-noon — at the conclusion of the summit, during which, officials said, “the entire range of issues” were discussed, alluding that it ranged from the long-standing border issue to bilateral trade imbalance.
Xi had already laid the groundwork of his meeting with Manmohan Singh with a five-point formula to improve ties with India, underscoring that peace between the two sides must be maintained across the borders without affecting neither the talks to resolve the dispute nor other aspects of the ties.
Broadly, the five proposals call for maintaining strategic communication and keeping ties on the right track, expanding cooperation in infrastructure and mutual investment, strengthening cultural ties, increasing coordination on multilateral affairs and accommodating each other’s core concerns.
There was also an emphasis on the two sides being able to “properly handle differences”.
Even the Indian prime minister had said before leaving for Durban that he looked forward to his meeting with the new Chinese president, which whom he had a telephonic conversation — soon after the change of leadership in Beijing mid-March.
“I look forwards to meeting the Chinese President Xi Jinping,” the prime minister remarked, ahead of his departure for this South African city Monday.
“It will be an opportunity for me to not only greet the new Chinese president personally, but also discuss how we can maintain the positive trajectory of our relationship and further strengthen this very important bilateral relationship.”
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at [email protected])