Modi says China should change its approach to ties

BEIJING: Visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his Chinese counterpart on Friday that Beijing needed to `reconsider its approach` to bilateral relations, as the Hindu nationalist leader departed from the usual diplomatic pleasantries.

Mr Modi, who despite his hard-line reputation has moved to engage with Beijing since his election last year, made the remarks after being welcomed to the Great Hall of the People by Premier Li Keqiang.

`I stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realising full potential of our partnership,` he said, adding that he `suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations` His comments stood out from the usual public declarations by diplomatic visitors to Beijing, who normally stick to uninterrupted pledges of friendship and good relations.

The world`s two most populous nations are jockeying for regional influence in Asia and their relationship is coloured by a brief but bloody 1962 border war over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which Beijing claims as South Tibet.

Another bone of contention is what Beijing sees as Delhi`s support of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, both based in India.

`Our relationship has been complex in recent decades,` Mr Modi said, adding there were issues that `trouble smooth development of our relations`.

`But, we have a historic responsibility to turn this relationship into a source of strength for each other and a force of good for the world, ` he said, adding that the Chinese leadership had been `responsive` in the meetings. The Indian premier began his three-day visit on Thursday in Xian, the capital of Chinese President Xi Jinping`s home province Shaanxi, where he was hosted by the head of state.

In another moment of warmth, a selfie of Mr Modi and Mr Li smiling in the sunshine at what appeared to be Beijing`s Temple of Heaven was posted on both the Indian leader`s Sina Weibo Chinese social media account and Twitter.

`It`s selfie time,` Mr Modi captioned the picture on Twitter. `Thanks Premier Li.

After their formal meeting, Mr Li said in a speech: `We do not deny that there are some disagreements between us, but we have far more common interests than differences.

`We agree that we need to keep up the momentum on the special representatives` talks on the boundary question and seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution.

PAPERS SIGNED: The two sides signed 24 documents, including agreements to cooperate in fields ranging from aerospace and railways to tourism and education, although no details were given, as well as open consulates in Chennai and Chengdu.

Mr Modi said that two days of talks yielded progress on issues ranging from a yawning trade imbalance to their continuing border dispute. He told reporters that he had managed to advance his goal of setting a new direction in relations between the two countries.

Mr Modi said the Chinese leaders had been sensitive to India`s concerns about its growing trade deficit with China, which reached $48 billion last year. As a partial solution, the two sides agreed to create a high-level body dedicated to expanding economic relations in areas including infrastructure, information technology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and manufacturing, he said.

The Indian leader said the two sides had agreed to intensify confidence-building measures along the disputed Himalayan border.

Mr Li said the two countries would continue to hold talks in search of a `fair resolution pending the final resolution of the boundary question`.-Agencies

Published in Dawn