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India, China set up hotline to ease border dispute

India, China ended four days of high-level talks in Beijing on Thursday with an agreement to set up a hotline between prime ministers, to better avoid flare-ups over a longstanding border dispute.

By Mian RidgeCorrespondent / April 8, 2010

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (r.) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna at Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing Wednesday. Krishna said here Tuesday that a strong and stable relationship between India and China has an impact on the entire world.

China Daily/Reuters

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New Delhi

Only months after reported border incursions sparked anger across the Himalayas, India and China sought to strengthen diplomatic ties during “cordial” four-day talks in Beijing which ended Thursday.

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Perhaps the most constructive outcome of the meeting – the highest-level visit from India since Indian elections a year ago – was the agreement to set up a hot line between their prime ministers. This would allow them to connect more easily and reduce the likelihood of flare-ups over long-running disputes.

"These have been cordial, useful, constructive, and wide-ranging discussions," India’s foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, told reporters at a press conference in Beijing Wednesday. "The agreement to establish a hot line is an important confidence-building measure and it opens up a direct channel of communication between the two leaders."

But in a reminder of lingering distrust, the talks came amid a new report claiming that a Chinese cyberspying group stole documents from the Indian Defense Ministry and e-mails from the office of the Dalai Lama, who is considered an enemy by China and lives in exile in India.

The two sides did not discuss the report, according to India, but are thought to have discussed a range of other topics, from China’s involvement in Pakistan to currency exchange rates and passport rules with Chinese officials.
 

A ‘new phase’

Tensions between the two nations flared last year over the north Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which borders Tibet and Bhutan and part of which is claimed by China. This area, which China calls South Tibet, includes an important Buddhist monastery in Tawang, the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama in the 17th century.

China was livid when the Dalai Lama visited the state last November. India, meanwhile, was riled by almost daily reports of border incursions by China

But in a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said the relationship had reached a "new phase of mature and stable development."

"History shows that friendship between neighbors and common development are in the interests of both countries, of Asia and of the world," said Mr. Wen.

Professor Alka Acharya, professor of East Asia studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, says that the leaders wanted to use this week's meetings to signal to Asia and the world “that they are serious about taking this relationship forward ... that this is a critical relationship.”

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