| Singh: Widening base
Dec. 11: The Indian government hopes to resolve the long-standing border dispute with China even as it steps up economic relations by opening itself to Chinese investment.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told reporters on board the flight to Kuala Lumpur for the East Asia Summit: “We have agreed on the basic principles guiding delineation of the border issue. We are hopeful we can progress not only in economic ties with China but also on the border.”
The border dispute, which arose after the war in 1962, has been under discussion for decades. Chinese investment in India till date has been viewed with suspicion and is subject to intense vetting by intelligence agencies and delays in approvals.
Singh, who has been prodded on this issue by his Left partners, said Chinese investors would be made to feel welcome. “Several pharmaceutical companies from India are operating there. I welcome Chinese investments.”
The Prime Minister added he was looking for more investment and trade relations with China in a way where the two were seen as partners, not competitors. “We need a faster growth of economic exchanges with China. Our trade is growing at a healthy rate, too.”
He said he hoped a new Asian Economic Community could come into being as a result of the talks he and other East Asian leaders would have in Kuala Lumpur beginning Monday.
There has been intense debate on whether to limit the East Asian economic community to Asean countries and the three East Asian economic powers ' China, Japan and South Korea ' or to widen its scope. Talks on whether to allow Australia and New Zealand to join have also taken place.
By making the statement, the Prime Minister is indicating that he is keen to widen membership. Sources said India would not object to attempts by even traditional rival Pakistan to join the economic grouping being sought to be set up.
Singh, who is also meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, besides leaders of South Korea, Vietnam and host Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, said there was general support for India’s engagement with this region.
“A fast-growing economy, with a GNP of $700 billion and a growth rate of 7-8 per cent, has a beneficial effect on the growth process of Southeast and East Asia as a whole,” he said. Singh described East and Southeast Asia as a “new magnet” and a “new pole for growth”.
The Prime Minister said the summit should try to lay the foundation of a new regional trade order in line with similar developments in Europe and North America.
Singh is one of the leaders of 15 countries who will be in the Malaysian capital over the next three days to attend a series of summits involving the Asean and the larger 16-nation East Asian community that includes Japan , South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.