‘Chinese premier begins India sojourn amidst expectations of a breakthrough on border dispute’
(Asian Tribune | April 16, 2005)

By M Rama Rao and D P Kamat in New Delhi:

The Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao began his India sojourn from Bangalore Saturday with an interaction with top computer brains, scientists and space experts. He is expected here today by when the officials of the countries would have finalised a "set of guiding principles" for a breakthrough to the four decade old Sino-Indian border dispute.

This is Wen's first visit to India as Prime Minister; he was here a decade back in 1994 as an upcoming Communist Party leader.

Ahead of his arrival, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a round of consultations with his predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee in his bid to firm up the Indian position for the summit meeting with the Chinese counterpart. Opposition BJP President L K Advani and former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh accompanied Vajpayee to the meeting in which External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh was also present.

"On the dialogue process initiated by Vajpayee during his January, 2004 visit to Islamabad, the Government informed us on how it was moving forward in that direction and expressed the hope that it would continue to make progress", Advani later told reporters.

Officials explained that the proposed ground rules or the guiding principles as they would like to describe them, will take into account security interests, welfare of people living around the border region and other key factors of common interest. While India claims over 40,000 square kilometers of Jammu and Kashmir especially Aksai Chin ceded to China by Pakistan, China lays claim to some 90,000 sq km of Indian territory, which roughly corresponds to Northeast India's backward Arunachal Pradesh province.

Foreign Secretaries of the two countries Shyam Saran (India) and Wu Dawei (China) reviewed the agenda for the Singh-Wen summit. Both had held talks in Beijing on 30th and 31st March, reviving the mechanism of Joint Working Group to discuss the border issue.

Sunday India's National Security Advisor M K Naryanan will confer Vice-Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo to give a final shape to the agenda. Both are the officially designated Special Representatives on the border row. The two countries have already held four rounds of border talks, mostly when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the prime Minister.

Chinese premier is accompanied by a 100-member delegation. When he flew into Bangalore from Colombo, he was received by Karnataka chief minister Dharam Singh and governor TN Chaturvedi. During the next 24-hours, his engagements are a visit to India's largest IT exporter Tata Consultancy Services, which has a huge workforce in China as well, and the R & D centre of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies.

He will go round the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which is gearing up to launch commercial satellite into geo-stationary and polar orbits. Another engagement is interaction with top scientists at India's premier Indian Institute of Science.

Tibetan Arrested

Bangalore Police have detained two leaders of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (RTYC) as a preventive measure ahead of the arrival of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Police said the RTYC leaders, Pema Tseten and Gelek Passang, were taken into custody to prevent them from mobilising Tibetan students to stage any surprise protest.

Members of the Friends of Tibet and RTYC have already said "impromptu" protests will be held in the city since the Police had denied permission to hold a 24-hour fast in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue during Wen's visit.

Bangalore is home to over 100 Tibetan families while nearly 500 students pursue their studies in the city. Karnataka is home to 40,000 Tibetans who are staying at three settlements near Bangalore. Most of them moved over here as the state government offered land for their settlement soon after Dalai Lama was offered asylum by India in 1959.

Police have also stepped up security near the Tibetan hostel, screening people who enter and venture out, as a security measure during the two-day stay of the Chinese leader in Bangalore.

On Monday Wen will confer with his Indian counterpart; both leaders will give the go ahead to a vital protocol on confidence-building measures, and to political parameters towards resolving the vexed boundary issue; both countries will also sign over a dozen agreements covering civil aviation, trade, customs, water resources and culture.

India Hopeful

Ahead of Wen-Manmohan summit, Indian Minister for the Interior Shivraj Patil said he is hopeful that a solution to the vexed border dispute with China will be worked out soon.

He, however, cautioned against expecting overnight results after the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

"Both Prime Ministers will talk about all important issues when they meet and the border question will also be discussed," Shivraj Patil told reporters here.

"They will discuss how to solve this (border) problem, about trade and how to maintain peace. However, we should not expect results. We are going on the right path and in the present circumstances, we are very hopeful (of resolution of the dispute)."

Shivraj Patil, who visited Nathula Pass on India's border with China last week, said he interacted with Indian and Chinese soldiers there who informed that there was "understanding and peace" between them.

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