India, China likely to ink key border pact during Manmohan-Li talks

Beijing, Oct 22 (IANS) India and China are expected to ink a key deal on a mechanism to prevent face-offs on their disputed border Wednesday as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in the Chinese capital on a three-day visit.

India said Tuesday that "all issues would be on the table", including the issuance of stapled visas by China to residents of its Arunachal Pradesh state, during talks between Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.

Both sides are to ink the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) that is aimed to prevent face-offs between the troops of the two sides on the 4,000-km boundary that has seen several incidents of incursions.

The Indian cabinet approved the blueprint of the BDCA ahead of the prime minister's visit.

The BDCA puts together existing mechanisms for maintaining peace on the border. It will not solve the border issue for which talks are going on for several years.

As the prime minister landed in Beijing airport, he said that both sides have "lots of things to discuss".

Besides stapled visas, both would discuss the adverse trade balance and water sharing issues, especially on the Brahmaputra river that runs from the Tibetan plateau to India, said an informed source.

The source indicated India's unhappiness at the issuance of stapled visas.

India has stressed that the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is an inalienable and integral part of India, which was reiterated by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh ahead of the prime minister's two-nation tour.

"Our stand is that we will not allow someone from Arunachal Pradesh to be treated differently," said the source.

The source said New Delhi had decided to "go slow" on inking a liberalised visa agreement with Beijing after two archers from Arunachal Pradesh were issued stapled visas by the Chinese embassy earlier this month.

China lays claim to Arunachal Pradesh and considers it "disputed".

The source said that India was still working on the liberalised visa agreement. "We were about to do it (agree) when the stapled visa came up.. we decided to go slow."

In New Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said the prime minister should raise the stapled visa issue and New Delhi's concerns about repeated border violations by Chinese troops.

Accorrding to the source, despite the Depsang incident which saw a three-week face off between troops of the two countries in Ladakh earlier this year in the wake of intrusion by Chinese forces, the border issue is not a "hot border dispute despite the hype" accompanying it.

Forces of the two sides had not fired any shots for years.

India and China are also cooperating on terrorism and discussing Afghanistan where international troops are set to withdraw next year end.

"We both have an interest in Afghanistan, in preventing it from becoming a haven for terrorism like it used to..Allhave common interests in Afghanistan and all are agreed on what we want to see and what we can do together to help the situation," the source said.

China has also begun acknowledging of late that terrorism is "coming out of Pakistan", which it considers its all weather friend.

The adverse trade issue would figure in the talks. India is seeking market access to pharmaceuticals, IT among other items.

China and India are discussing setting up an industrial cluster in India and a Chinese team is scouting in India for possible sites to set up the special economic zone.

The idea would be to sell the goods produced to China or third countries, which would also help in restoring the balance of trade which is heavily skewed in China's favour

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

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