“For millenniums, the Chinese and the Indian civilisations have drawn splendour from each other through exchanges and made significant contributions to the progress of mankind,” said Li Keqiang as he arrived in India this week. “China and India are friendly neighbours connected by common mountains and rivers,” he added. From the tone and florid qualities of the Chinese prime minister’s remarks you might not have guessed these two nations had just faced-off in an acrimonious border dispute. The three-week stand-off that began in mid-April saw an angered Indian government protest over what it said were territorial incursions by Chinese troops. The row ended on May 5 with Chinese troops withdrawing.
On touching down in New Delhi. Li was quick to strike a conciliatory stance, referring to India as a “key partner and friend”. Symbolically it was his first overseas trip and he made clear that the border dispute was a historical hangover. After meeting his counterpart Manmohan Singh he said “We have established the principles for settling the question.” The two countries’ representatives would, he said, meet “soon” to “continue discussions seeking an early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary agreement.” Li – who described his trip as a “handshake across the Himalayas” and impressed Indian photojournalists with quips in English – declared his hope that bilateral trade between China and India could grow to $100 billion by 2015 from $70 billion last year.
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