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Atal to visit China in June

New Delhi, May 12: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will visit China next month, defence minister George Fernandes announced today.

Fernandes, who returned from a visit to China in April, said Beijing and New Delhi were moving towards resolving their border disputes.

“Not a single bullet has been fired across the Himalayan frontiers between China and India for the last three years,” Fernandes said. Indian and Chinese troops had been on alert at the Line of Actual Control and in the frontiers in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh for years. In his talks with Chinese leaders, Fernandes said he had got the impression that they want peace and friendship with India.

The defence minister said he would not like to speculate how long the resolution of border disputes could take but it was noteworthy that there had been no firing in recent years and that there was “peace, tranquillity and even bonhomie among troops on the frontiers”.

Fernandes, who of late has made no secret of his admiration for China’s economic strengths, said there were achievements that India should watch closely. He said the Chinese leaders had told him that they wanted peace and tranquillity on the borders. If confidence was built in this manner, he had no doubt that a resolution of border disputes was feasible.

Fernandes, who now denies and says the media put words into his mouth when a quote — that he had identified China as India’s potential enemy No. 1 — was attributed to him, has made a series of statements in recent times that put him up as one of the most China-friendly politicians in the ruling dispensation.

Fernandes has been arguing in favour of increasing India-China bilateral trade. Last week, he got the armed forces medical services to make a token gift of medical aid to help Beijing control the spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

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