Border pact opens Sino-Indian trade gateway

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When India and China shake hands, the world notices: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with China's President Xi Jinping before their meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. When India and China shake hands, the world notices: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with China's President Xi Jinping before their meeting in Beijing on Wednesday.
Summary'Tanquillity on the border as the 'strategic benchmark' and not letting relationships.'

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said tranquillity on the border as the “strategic benchmark” and not letting relationships with other countries become a source of concern to each other as a “strategic reassurance” were the key factors on which progress of India-China relationship would depend.

Singh underlined this by first raising the issue of stapled visas to archers from Arunachal Pradesh, conveying to his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang that such acts erode public goodwill for constructive efforts like the liberalised visa agreement that had to held back at the last minute.

The other concern he raised was about China’s investments in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and its nuclear relationship with Pakistan, which is where the emphasis on strategic reassurance came up.

The two broad assertions, to which Singh said Li had agreed, were put out as essential markers by the PM to realise the full potential of what his counterpart had called the “strategic window” in the partnership.

Li’s reading was that the current period presented an opportunity to both countries to shift gears as the West was trying to emerge from a debilitating economic crisis, a point he had made during his India visit. Repeating it on Wednesday in his talks with Singh, he said 2013 was the “year of harvest” in the relationship.

To that end, the two countries signed on to a new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement aimed at strengthening existing instruments to ensure “peace, stability and predictability” along the Line of Actual Control. This envisages more meetings between the armies of the two nations, improved procedures and protocols to avoid conflict as well as establishing better communication links which could include a hotline between the two headquarters.

Singh, in fact, laid out a three-point map to take the relationship forward. The first of these was building mutual trust. And in this, apart from the border agreement, was another major breakthrough — the agreement on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers.

After years of persuasion, the Chinese agreed to expand the scope of existing expert-level mechanism from just sharing of hydrological data to “exchange views on other issues of mutual interests”. This would mean that India can now discuss its concerns about hydro-electric projects planned upstream on the Brahmaputra on the Chinese side.

More importantly, the agreement states that the two sides recognised that trans-border rivers are “assets of immense value to

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