India paves way for PM’s China visit

India paves way for PM’s China visit


New Delhi: India’s senior foreign ministry official opened talks on 17 September in Beijing to prepare for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s first visit to China, expected later this year, an official said.

Shivshankar Menon, India’s ambassador to China from 2000 to 2003, will be discussing dates and preparations for the two-day visit, the foreign ministry official said under cover of anonymity.

The head of India’s ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, is also likely to visit China separately, Indian media reports said. Menon is also expected to finalise dates for another meeting between Indian and Chinese officials on a decades-old border row, the official said.

India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (15,200 square miles) of its territory in Kashmir, while Beijing claims 90,000 square kilometres of the remote Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The dispute erupted after a brief but bitter conflict in 1962, after which a formal ceasefire line was never established, but the border has remained mostly peaceful after agreements in 1993 and 1996.

A landmark civil nuclear deal between India and the United States under which New Delhi will get nuclear fuel and technology was also likely to figure on Menon’s agenda, the Indian official said.

Beijing has so far remained non-committal on support for the deal, which still needs the approval of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group. Diplomatic ties between the two Asian giants have increased in recent years with bilateral visits and two-way trade approaching $2 billion a month.