Originally Published 2013-10-31 07:19:49 Published on Oct 31, 2013
Though India and China failed to resolve the issue of the stapled visa for those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, there was substantial progress in other areas. The memorandum of understanding speaks about nine deals signed during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
PM's trip to Russia and China gave reason enough to cheer
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh undertook a five-day trip to the major countries of Russia and China on October 20. Though the visit was an annual event, this time it turned out to be a farewell visit as there will be a change of Government after the election next year.

The Prime Minister’s discussion with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the supply of two more nuclear reactors was inconclusive, since the issue of civil liability in the event of accidents in any of the nuclear reactors could not be resolved. The matter will be negotiated further by the officials. However, the ONGC of India and Gazprom of Russia successfully negotiated a 20-year gas deal for supply of gas through pipeline travelling through several West Asian countries to India. The agreement also envisages long term co-operation on the hydrocarbon sector between the two countries.

India has also sought Russian support for concluding a Free Trade Agreement between the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The bi-lateral trade between India and Russia is only $11 billion but both sides stressed that it had risen 25 per cent in the last year despite the adverse global situation. The Russian President also stressed on the quality of Russian trade with India and said that it was a matter of satisfaction and, that it included machinery and equipment. There was also an agreement between two sides to study the possibility of an overland gas pipe line.

The positive personal chemistry between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Putin was evident from a Tsar-era gift, the Russian President gave to Dr Manmohan Singh and in the finesse with which they glossed over the failure to link contracts relating to the sale of two more nuclear reactors.

On a more important political level, a clear signal was given to Pakistan on its support to Kashmir jihadi groups, India and Russia agreed that "terrorist attacks perpetrated under misleading slogans amounted to undermining the territorial integrity of nations". Russia was also experiencing jihadi attacks from Chechen rebels for some years in its southern region and could therefore appreciate India’s problems with Pakistan provoking jihadi’s attacks in Kashmir.

After concluding his visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proceeded to Beijing. The Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with considerable warmth.

Though, India and China failed to resolve the issue of the stapled visa for those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, there was substantial progress in other areas. The memorandum of understanding speaks about nine deals signed during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Describing his meeting with the Chinese Prime Minister as historic, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "When India and China shake hands, the world notices." With the Chinese premier standing beside and applauding appreciatively, nine deals were signed. One of them dealt with the dams on the river Brahmaputra and other dams, if they come up in future.

The proposal to have a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries was agreed upon. Another agreement dealt with the setting up of an economic corridor between China and India via Bangladesh and Myanmar. This was described as the revival of the Southern Silk Route.

President Xi Jinping hosted a banquet dinner for the Indian premier and said that India and China were looking at a "unique moment" in history, one which belonged to both of them, and that they should "grasp that moment". The Chinese President also quoted a Chinese proverb saying that "a journey of a thousand miles began with a single step".

The Chinese premier Li Keqiang escorted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Forbidden City in Beijing and guided him to the pavilion named after Chinese Emperor Qianlong. There, Li pointed out a 3,000-year-old Tibetan statue, an artefact from the Pala dynasty which ruled Bengal in the 19th century to underline the deep historical roots of China’s relationship with eastern India. The Indian delegation drew satisfaction from the fact that the Chinese side did not mention the question of Tibet even once.

Among the various pacts signed between India and China there was one pertaining to border agreement. The new border agreement, called the new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), may not prevent face-offs between the Indian and Chinese armies along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but it provides a more robust protocol to defuse confrontation and build trust between the rival armies along the 4,057-km LAC. The pact provides a template to manage and defuse face-offs and also seeks to ensure that local issues are settled between local commanders. Other important CBMs dealt with establishment of a hotline between the two military headquarters to ensure peaceful movements along the Line of Actual Control. The pact holds that both the armies will exercise maximum self-restraint, and if a face-to-face situation develops, they should seek clarification from the other side so that there was no confrontation.

In the background of the incident into the Deg valley in the Ladakh sector, the new agreement is a great step forward.

Three Indian cities and three of China have been paired under a "sister city" programme that will allow them to connect and learn from each other. New Delhi was paired with Beijing, Bangalore with Chengdu and Kolkata with Kunming. These cities were also being air- linked after negotiation between two countries.

In yet another move, India has offered to let Chinese authorities or companies modernise two Indian railway stations as well as improve the movement of freight on the railway lines. It has been revealed that during the discussion between India and China on the border pact, India referred to Pak-based terror. Indian authorities disclosed that China is quietly and steadily cooperating with India on terrorism. China was apprehensive of terror groups originating from the Afghan - Pak border region operating in the Chinese southern fringe areas and disturbing peace.

The Indian delegation was happy that the Chinese were clearly in a mood to mend fences and rolled out the red carpet as was seen when Premier Li himself offered and conducted his Indian counterpart to the Forbidden City.

A rare honour was extended to the Indian Prime Minister by asking him to address future leaders at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School. Dr Singh spoke of opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, especially in the fields of agriculture, infrastructure and the energy sector. Dr Singh also said that two-way trade was growing to $66 billion and that the growth continued.

During his return journey from Beijing on October 24, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told pressmen who were on board about his disappointment that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not keep his word on maintaining peace on the LoC as was agreed upon during the meeting in New York after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address at the UN General Assembly.

(The writer is a former Governor and currently an visor to Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

Courtesy: The Tribune, October 31, 2013

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