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India, China forge closer ties

From CNN Correspondent Lisa Rose Weaver

Vajpayee:
Vajpayee: "The 21st century can only be the Asian century if India and China combine to make it so."

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Trade talks and a border dispute dominate the Indian prime minister's state visit to Beijing.
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Asian giants India and China have signed a series of agreements symbolizing a desire for a new, closer relationship.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been meeting senior Chinese leaders in Beijing as part of an historic six-day visit aimed at improving ties which in the past have been marred by political tensions.

Vajpayee, the first Indian leader to visit China for a decade, stressed a desire for closer ties in talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, which also yielded pledges to increase trade.

The two countries signed a joint declaration Monday on a broad range of issues -- most significantly on the border dispute between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which fought a border war in 1962.

But it was not clear whether the declaration set out ways to tackle the territorial dispute, deemed central to ties between the world's two most populous nations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, referring to the border dispute, said the two countries would try to "aggressively resolve historical problems," Reuters reports him saying.

"The basic thinking is according to what the leaders of the two countries agreed upon in the past, and that is negotiating on equal footing, mutual understanding and giving in," he said.

On other issues, both sides emphasized the need to enhance bilateral trade, which as started to grow but is still only worth $5 billion a year, with India rivaling Belgium in China's list of trading partners.

Officials from both countries also signed nine agreements on Monday promising to ease visa rules , cooperate in science and technology and to set up cultural centers.

China also pledged $500 million for infrastructure development in India.

Kashmir

Relations in the past between China and India have been tense.
Relations in the past between China and India have been tense.

But Vajpayee, who has launched a new peace bid with Pakistan, told Wen he was disappointed there was no end to what he called Islamabad's involvement in Kashmir's strife.

Relations between India and China have been marred by distrust for years. Badly bruised after losing the border war to China, India has long accused Beijing of supporting Pakistan, its traditional enemy and nuclear rival.

India has also accused China of giving nuclear missile technology to Pakistan, a charge Beijing denies.

China in turn resents India's decision to give shelter to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, following a 1959 revolt against Chinese rule.

Speaking to students at Peking university, Vajpayee said, "The India-China dialogue already transcends bilateral relations to encompass international issues such as terrorism, security, environment and sustainable development."

"We have an increasing commonality of interests within the World Trade Organization and overlapping concerns on globalization."

"The 21st century can only be the Asian century if India and China combine to make it so," the Indian prime minister said, quoting former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Later in his trip Vajpayee will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao and former president Jiang Zemin before flying to the ancient city of Luoyang and then Shanghai, China's economic powerhouse.


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