The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal spies end of Sikkim dispute with China

New Delhi, July 23: Stating that Sikkim will soon cease to be an issue in India-China relations, Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said Delhi had not changed its decades-old policy on Tibet.

The Prime Minister was making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha on his recent visits to Germany, Russia, France and China.

Vajpayee described last month’s memorandum of understanding with China on border trade through Nathu-La as significant.

“This adds a third point of crossing for border trade between India and China. With this memorandum, we have also started the process by which Sikkim will cease to be an issue in India-China relations,” he said.

The Prime Minister said his visit had boosted cultural relations between the two countries, adding that they had agreed to establish cultural centres in Delhi and Beijing.

Vajpayee said he would visit Russia soon as part of the “normal sequence” of annual summits. He told the House that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will visit India next year.

Before his China visit in end-June, Vajpayee toured Europe and met a host of world leaders, including US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao.

The Prime Minister said the leaders had appreciated the peace initiative he had begun with Pakistan.

“All the leaders I met naturally showed interest in the situation in South Asia. I was happy to note that all of them expressed support and appreciation for the hand of friendship we have extended to Pakistan and hoped that Pakistan would reciprocate, he said

“All of them spoke strongly against the menace of terrorism,” Vajpayee said. He added: “I believe my interlocutors have a proper appreciation of our policy of promoting peace, regionally and internationally.”

Vajpayee said Putin, who hosted him during St Petersburg’s tercentenary celebrations, had reiterated Moscow’s commitment to deepen defence ties with India. He said the two countries had agreed to continue their wide-ranging and extensive interaction.

The Prime Minister said Blair had demonstrated “sensitivity and understanding” for India’s core security concerns.

Speaking about Tibet, Vajpayee said: “There is no change in our decades-old policy. We have never doubted that Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.”

He added: “There can, therefore, be no argument against reiterating it (India’s policy). We have said nothing new about the presence of His Holiness Dalai Lama or of Tibetan refugees in India.”

The Prime Minister said the twin objectives of his China visit — to establish close relations with the new set of leaders in Beijing and to impart fresh momentum to the increasingly-diversified bilateral cooperation – had been fulfilled.

“We have agreed to a wide-ranging, mutually beneficial engagement with China, even while simultaneously addressing our differences through amicable discussions,” he said.

Vajpayee said Hu had told him that the new leadership in China “placed great emphasis on developing friendship with India”.

The Prime Minister said it had been agreed that China and India, who account for one-third of humanity, should work together to make the 21st century an Asian century.

Commenting that his China visit was the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 10 years, Vajpayee said a recurrent theme during his visit was the commitment of both sides to strengthen the ongoing process of building mutual trust and understanding.

“It gave me an invaluable opportunity to personally interact with the new Chinese leadership. I was received with great warmth and courtesy and was given the distinct impression that our desire for mutual goodwill and for diversification of our bilateral relationship was fully reciprocated,” he said.

Vajpayee said the two sides had agreed that work on defining the Line of Actual Control should continue smoothly and that peace and tranquility in border areas should be maintained.

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