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Delhi sensitivity sermon to China

New Delhi, Dec. 4: India has expressed hope that China would be more sensitive to its core concerns including Kashmir, the forthright stance coming ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao’s New Delhi visit that sources said would begin on December 16.

Spelling out India’s expectations from the visit, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao cited issues impinging on the country’s sovereignty, such as the Chinese presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Beijing’s issuance of stapled visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir.

She said New Delhi was also concerned about Beijing damming rivers like the Brahmaputra and the trade barriers Indian companies faced in China.

India believes “that the India-China relationship will grow even stronger as China shows more sensitivity on core issues that impinge on our sovereignty and territorial integrity. We hope this can be realised,” Rao told a seminar on India-China relations yesterday.

The foreign secretary said New Delhi had taken steps to remove the hurdles that Chinese companies faced in India and expected a quid pro quo. “We also expect similar access to Chinese markets, especially in the area of pharmaceuticals, IT and engineering goods, where our companies have often faced non-tariff and opaque barriers.”

Rao said New Delhi had “sought assurances from China that it will take no action to negatively affect the flow of (trans-border) rivers into India. China has assured us that the projects on the Brahmaputra are run-of-the-river projects and are not meant for storing or diverting water.”

Rao said efforts were being made to resolve the vexed border issue, but added that “the India-China boundary is one of the most peaceful of all borders”.

The foreign secretary stressed the areas of cooperation but indicated how China’s spectacular economic growth had contributed to its more assertive foreign policy.

“China has begun to deal in the currency of global power, and its economic success is impacting its foreign, defence and security policies. The appellation of assertiveness is frequently applied to China’s profile in global affairs today,” she said.

Rao cited China’s “spectacular and riveting” economic growth but alluded to the lack of democracy in that country. “Its people, particularly the youth, seem focused on improving their living standards... and politics does not define their every day.”

She added that “neither of us (India and China) has the luxury of seeing each other in antagonistic terms. The view that India and China are rivals to me is an over-generalisation as well as over-simplification of a complex relationship.”

She spoke of the “chequered” record of bilateral ties and said the two nations should see their relationship in the context of their historical people-to-people engagements. “Indeed, this was the vision that inspired Rabindranath Tagore during his sojourns in China in the early decades of the 20th century.”

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