India, China pledge to boost trade, military ties
China and India pledged yesterday to strengthen trade and military links and seek a solution to a border row, as India's prime minister sought to cement a rapid improvement in ties with a landmark visit.
The friendly atmosphere was tempered, however, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's call for China to make concessions to reduce a growing two-way trade imbalance.
The Indian leader said he and his host Premier Wen Jiabao signed a broad agreement to push an often testy relationship to a new level of cooperation.
The pact lifts the target for bilateral trade -- which soared to 38.7 billion dollars last year -- to 60 billion dollars by 2010, and pledges a renewed effort to solve a Himalayan border dispute over which they fought a brief war in 1962.
It also commits the two sides to another joint military exercise this year, following their first-ever exercise late last year, and to pursue a possible regional trade agreement, said Singh, who arrived on Sunday.
Singh called the document "an important milestone in the evolution of our relations."
"The profound changes taking place in the world today present both our countries with a historic opportunity to work together towards a 21st century that is conducive to peace and development," he told reporters.
"It reflects not only our common perceptions but also our desire to purposefully cooperate in the future."
However, Singh also said in a speech earlier in the day Beijing must lift market barriers to Indian goods "to bridge the rising trade deficit between us."
New Delhi is looking to rein in a trade gap with China, which it says jumped to about nine billion dollars in 2007 from four billion dollars the previous year as two-way trade has exploded recently.
Singh's three-day visit, made in the company of Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, is the first by an Indian prime minister to China in five years.
It comes as the world's two most populous nations seek to strengthen ties and overcome decades of mistrust, much of it stemming from the border dispute.