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Indian and Chinese Premiers Pledge Cooperation on Border Issues

By GARDINER HARRIS, NEW DELHI (NY Times):  The leaders of India and China papered over their recent border spat on Monday with a friendly joint statement and an array of promises for economic and military cooperation, but they resolved none of their most vexing problems.
The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, emphasized in his remarks that cordial relations between the two countries depended on “peace and tranquillity on our borders,” and said that he and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, “agreed that this must continue to be preserved.”

Mr. Li, who arrived in India on Sunday, offered some reassurances about the border difficulties, but he made no apology for Chinese troops’ recent incursion into a district of Kashmir claimed by India.

“Both sides believe we need to improve various border-related mechanisms that we have put into place and make them more efficient, and we need to appropriately manage and resolve our differences,” Mr. Li said.

Mr. Singh had met Mr. Li’s predecessor nearly a dozen times, and the highly scripted declarations of friendship the two leaders made on Monday could have emerged from almost any of those prior get-togethers. In 2010, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Delhi with a huge delegation of business leaders eager to make deals, and Mr. Li’s delegation is similarly heavy on commercial interests.

The Chinese tend to want to discuss business, while the Indians tend to want to focus on borders. So far, the Chinese have prevailed: trade between the two countries has soared over the last 10 years, mostly to China’s benefit, while much of their immense border remains contested.

The Indians had hoped for an explanation for the contingent of 50 Chinese troops discovered on April 15 camped out in the mountainous Ladakh section of Kashmir, in an area India claims. India moved some of its own troops to within about 300 yards, and the two groups stared at each other for weeks as Indian military and diplomatic officials furiously tried to get the Chinese to pull up stakes and leave. They left on May 5.

But there was no sign on Monday that Mr. Li had given a satisfying explanation. Instead, the two leaders agreed that special envoys would continue talking about the incursion.

The two men signed eight memorandums of understanding on lesser issues, including an agreement to jointly conduct the annual Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage, which requires Indian citizens to enter China.

But the meeting seemed unlikely to halt India’s growing concerns about its increasingly powerful eastern neighbor. India’s present government is fairly introspective, has little appetite for grand international gestures and has begun to limit its expansive military spending. But Indian military leaders, both retired and active, have begun to insist that the nation pay less attention to Pakistan, its historic and increasingly irrelevant rival, and more to China.

China has grown increasingly assertive in the South China Sea and has been building ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. China’s ports, referred to as “a string of pearls,” have alarmed India and unnerved the United States.

In a press briefing, India’s ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, described the visit as “a significant visit — it’s a substantive visit, it’s a productive visit.”

“There are issues, but the view was that our shared interests are more than our differences,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

But Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said that India had so far gotten little of value out of the visit, including no reassurance about the border.

“My assessment is that China has gained more from these meetings than India,” he said. “The Chinese side conceded nothing.”

One measure of the continuing unease between the world’s two most populous nations — each has more than one billion people — is that their leaders will almost immediately visit the other’s rival. Mr. Li is scheduled to fly to Pakistan on Wednesday, and Mr. Singh will go to Tokyo next week. Mr. Li could announce a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan when he visits Islamabad, an arrangement that India is unlikely to welcome.

The police in New Delhi closed roads in much of the central part of the city for security reasons on Monday, and they closed several metro stations to prevent Tibetan activists from gathering to protest Chinese rule in Tibet. Scattered protests were held in various parts of the city anyway.

Mr. Singh and Mr. Li also discussed India’s growing alarm over China’s plans to build a series of dams on the Brahmaputra River, which flows into India’s northeast provinces.

India has repeatedly asked China to provide more information about its plans and the effects they will have on India, but China has so far resisted. In a statement, Mr. Li said China was willing to “strengthen communication” with India over its dam developments.

The two leaders also discussed their common concerns about Afghanistan, efforts to increase tourism between the two nations and an effort by India to increase Chinese language instruction.

“I think the point was that if India and China are both growing, surely our relationship should be growing at least as fast,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

Hari Kumar and Malavika Vyawahare contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong.

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

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