PM to visit Beijing before 26 May; border issues key: Sushma

02 Feb 2015


Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make his first visit to China before 26 May with an ''outcome-driven'' agenda, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday after talks in Beijing with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to pave the way for the PM's visit.

Swaraj emphasised that maintaining peace along the border was a pre-requisite for the development of ties with Beijing.

The 62-year-old Swaraj is on her first visit to India's bigger neighbour after she took charge as foreign minister last year. She said the Prime Minister would undertake the visit before the BJP-led government completes one year in office.

Swaraj, addressing the media after a lengthy round of talks with Wang, said modalities for making the second route to the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim operational have been finalised.

Both sides exchanged notes under which the first batch of pilgrims would travel by the route from June this year.

Her talks with Wang stretched to over two hours, followed by dinner. They discussed the resolution of the border issue, which is being tackled by special representatives of both the countries.

Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping were leaders with strong "willpower" and both think out of the box. They could find a solution to the dispute during Prime Minister Modi's "outcome-driven visit", she said.

Both sides agreed that the resolution of the border dispute should not be left to future generations.

Earlier in the day, Swaraj, while addressing an India-China Media Forum, said India is committed to an "early settlement" of the issue.

She proposed a six-point template to build China-India ties to realise the common dream of the 'Asian Century'.

"Our relationship today has reached a level where we have interactions in fields that could not have been imagined some years ago. We have made considerable progress in establishing and expanding defence contacts and exchanges, including across the border. They contribute to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity there, a pre-requisite for the further development of our relationship. On the boundary question, my government is committed to exploring early settlement," Swaraj said.

Swaraj's visit also set the pace for the 18th round of border talks in which National Security Advisor Ajit Doval would represent India for the first time as Special Representative.

Swaraj and Wang discussed a possible date for the next round of border talks. She will call on Chinese President Xi Jinping today.

Prime Minister Modi has had three meetings with Xi, the most important being Xi's visit to India in September last year.

Harping on the new pilgrimage route for Hindu devotees, Swaraj said once the Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra's second route becomes operational, it is expected to benefit Indian pilgrims. The route begins through Nathu La pass in Sikkim. The existing route through the Lipulekh Pass was badly damaged in the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013.

The new route has good roads and pilgrims, especially older people, can travel by buses directly to their destination.

After his meeting with Ms Swaraj, Wang said, "We believe India-US relations and India-China relationship are two separate bilateral relationships.

"As two big neighbours and two important developing countries, we absolutely have the need and possibility to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation,"  Wang said.

"We both follow independent foreign policy and both give high priority to developing good relations with neighbours," he said.

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