India Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping to resolve a boundary dispute even as Beijing promised to invest $20 billion in India over the next five years. The border spat between the armies of the two countries in the Himalayas underlined mutual tensions despite the growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi's high profile visit.
Soon after holding talks in New Delhi that lasted much longer than the stipulated 90 minutes, and the signing of 12 landmark agreements covering areas such as trade and commerce, Modi turned the focus on the troubling border dispute between India and China.
Modi said he had raised serious concerns over the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said the boundary dispute must be resolved soon.
The Indian leader said they were clear that peace on the border has to be the foundation of the trust and relationship between the two nations.
Modi called for an early clarification of the “line of actual control” which presently separates the two countries. He said if this happened “we can realize the potential of our relations."
Xi’s visit to India took place as troops from both countries were engaged in a border standoff in the Ladakh region - one of their worst in recent years.
The Chinese leader played down the tensions, attributing such incidents to their undemarcated border. He said both countries could manage such differences and China remains committed to peaceful borders.
“China has the determination to work with India through friendly consultation to settle the boundary question at an early date. We also have the sincerity to work with India to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas before we are finally able to settle the boundary question,” he said.
The lingering border issue is not hampering the two countries, focused on growing their economies, from deepening commercial ties. China committed to invest $20 billion in India on infrastructure projects and industrial parks over the next five years. It will help upgrade India’s aging railway system. The two countries also signed agreements to step up cooperation in areas such as commerce and space technology.
The Chinese leader promised to address another irritant for India - a huge trade imbalance in its favor -- by taking steps to increase market access for Indian goods, such as pharmaceuticals and farm products.
Both leaders stressed that the two populous countries could gain much by building good relations.
Xi said China and India are two important forces in a “multipolar world.”
“We are both in a great process of national rejuvenation. China and India share common development goals, similar development philosophies and compatible development strategies. We should partner with each other to build a closer developmental partnership…. This will bring benefit to the 2.5 billion Chinese and Indian people and have long lasting impact on the region and the world,” he said.
As the Chinese leader visited the Indian capital, small groups of Tibetans staged noisy protests before being hustled away by police.
They shouted slogans and waved banners saying “Stop Killing Tibetans”.
Meanwhile, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, speaking in Mumbai, called the Chinese president a “more realistic, more open-minded leader” and said he can learn things from India’s experience in democracy.
The Dalai Lama also said that an unsettled border with China that touched the Tibetan plateau was a problem that would have to be tackled.
“Sooner or later you have to solve these problems, not by force, but by understanding and talk. Understanding comes through talk,” he said.
The presence of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government in exile and tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees continues to be an irritant for China.