Manmohan to meet Wen to kickstart busy day in Thailand

October 24th, 2009 - 9:46 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Hua Hin (Thailand), Oct 24 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh starts a hectic day here Saturday with a much awaited meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao that officials hope would ease tensions between the two countries.
Manmohan Singh and Wen will shake hands at 10.30 a.m. (local time) at Hotel Dusit Thani, where the Asean and East Asia summits are being held, to mark the highest-level contact between India and China since the start of their verbal duels more than a month ago.

Indian officials said the two prime ministers will head their respective delegations at the talks. A separate meeting between the two leaders is not ruled out. “Both sides will exchange views on issues of mutual concern,” China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyao said.

It is not clear how long the Wen-Manmohan meeting will last, but according to the programme of the Indian prime minister his next bilateral is at 11.35 a.m. with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Assisting the prime minister in his talks with Wen would be Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair and Secretary (East) N. Ravi.

On Friday, in a rebuff to China, New Delhi reiterated that Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was free to travel to any part of India, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 1959, and that Arunachal Pradesh was an integral part of the country.

China has bitterly opposed the Dalai Lama’s proposed November trip to Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern Indian state which Beijing claims as its own. China also came out strongly against the visit to Arunachal Pradesh by Manmohan Singh in October, upsetting New Delhi.

The Manmohan Singh-Wen meeting will be their first since they met in New York in October last year. It will also be the highest-level contact between the two countries since relations took a beating during the past one month over accusations and counter-accusations centered over their unresolved border row.

Both Beijing and the official Chinese media have taken an unusually aggressive stance over Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi has also criticized Beijing’s decision to undertake projects in Pakistani Kashmir, saying this would impact negatively on India-China relations. The Chinese military has also been accused of foraying into Indian border areas. This has been denied by Beijing.

An Indian official said there was political consensus in India on building better relations with China. But this had to be based on mutual self-respect. “The mood is upbeat,” one official source said.

Manmohan Singh has a packed programme Saturday and Sunday.

Besides taking part in the seventh summit between India and the 10-member Association for Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Saturday and at the fourth East Asia Summit Sunday involving the Asean and six other countries, the prime minister will hold a string of bilateral meetings with leaders from the region.

He will also hold discussions with the prime ministers of Cambodia and Thailand. Sunday’s bilateral engagements would cover the prime ministers of Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.

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