BEIJING – China and India signed a confidence-building accord Wednesday to cooperate on border defense following a standoff between armed forces of the two Asian giants in disputed Himalayan territory earlier this year.
The agreement followed a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also had trade ties on the agenda as India seeks to gain greater access to Chinese markets and attract more inbound Chinese investment.
At present, trade between the two sides is heavily skewed in China’s favor. With growing economies and a combined population of 2.5 billion, the two neighbors have set a target of $100 billion in bilateral trade by 2015, up from $61.5 billion last year.
The meeting Wednesday will "inject new momentum and vitality into the China-India relationship,” Li said. Singh also was to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later Wednesday.
Relations between the nations are overshadowed by a half-century-old border dispute over which they fought a brief but bloody war in 1962. More than a dozen rounds of talks have failed to resolve the issue, and the two sides had a three-week standoff at their frontier earlier this year.
India said that Chinese soldiers launched incursions several miles across the Line of Actual Control at the Himalayan frontier between the sides in May, though China denied setting foot anywhere but on Chinese territory.
Seeking to avert such incidents, they signed the accord Wednesday to boost communication between the two sides about border maneuvers, hold periodic meetings, including at designated border points, and jointly combat smuggling. They agreed patrols should refrain from provocations and should not follow or "tail” patrols of the other side in contested areas “where there is no common understanding of the Line of Actual Control.”
The accord will help “ensure peace, stability and predictability on our borders,” Singh said following the signing at a news conference, at which no questions from reporters were allowed.
China claims around 35,000 square miles of land in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, while India says China is occupying 15,000 square miles of territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas.