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Bouquet of plans and pacts
Let a thousand ties bloom

New Delhi, Nov. 21: India and China today embarked on a path of “irreversible friendship” by formulating a 10-pronged strategy and signing 13 agreements.

Deciding not to allow the boundary dispute to get in the way, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh listed several areas, including civilian nuclear energy, to expand cooperation.

“International civil nuclear cooperation should be advanced through innovative and forward-looking approaches, while safeguarding the effectiveness of international non-proliferation principles,” said the joint declaration after the talks.

While China expressed support for India’s civilian nuclear programme, the commitment to “international non-proliferation principles” can be read as a signal that Beijing is not ready to make an exception for New Delhi.

India, however, will need that preferred treatment when it goes to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the closed forum of countries that are allowed to trade in nuclear technology and equipment, to gain access to the international market.

As the nuclear deal with the US is all but sealed, India has to negotiate with the NSG next and if China, one of its members, were to insist on keeping to “non-proliferation principles”, it could block India, a possibility reported earlier in The Telegraph.

Officials said Indo-US nuclear co-operation was informally discussed, but New Delhi refrained from seeking assurance of support from Beijing at the NSG.

Both leaders wanted the boundary dispute to be settled quickly and decided that it would not be allowed to affect economic ties.

They directed the two special representatives — Indian national security adviser M.K. Narayanan and Chinese vice-foreign minister Dai Bingguo — to speed up the process of completing the framework for the boundary settlement.

The Sino-Indian dialogue has also been institutionalised with summits every year. India has such an arrangement with only a few countries that include Russia and the EU. For the first time, there will be a hotline between the foreign ministers of China and India.

The joint declaration provides for expansion of ties in a variety of fields — space, defence, trans-border connectivity and culture.

Singh said the two countries were not competitors and there was enough space for both to grow. A trade target of $40 billion by 2010 was set, which, officials said, was achievable with the current growth being around 20 per cent a year.

Hu and Singh also asked the joint task force studying the feasibility of the India-China regional trading arrangement to submit its report by October 2007. Delhi supports the arrangement but opposes the free-trade agreement proposed by Beijing.

Thirteen agreements were signed on protection of bilateral investments, education, agriculture and culture.

With concern being expressed over Chinese designs on the Brahmaputra, there was agreement to expand sharing of hydrological data.

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