Manmohan Singh's China trip aims for breakthrough in border dispute

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 7:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 7:20am


India's Manmohan Singh embarks today on one of his last major foreign trips as prime minister, heading to Russia and China to strengthen trade ties and address a long-running border dispute.

The 81-year-old leader, who is expected to stand down after elections next year, will look to clinch energy, defence and other economic deals in both countries as New Delhi tries to boost trade and investment to kick-start sluggish growth.

Singh will also seek a breakthrough on the border dispute with China that has soured ties for decades, after the leaders of the two Asian giants pledged earlier this year to build up trust.

"Maintenance of peace, tranquillity and stability on our border is an important factor in our bilateral ties [with China] and it is expected that this would be an important aspect of the discussions," Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said at a briefing on the four-day trip.

Singh, who arrives in Moscow tonight, will meet President Vladimir Putin tomorrow with the focus on strengthening supply of weapons and military hardware to New Delhi.

He will head to China on Tuesday looking to forge closer economic ties and ink an agreement to ease tension along their disputed border in a remote Himalayan region, following a flare-up in April.

India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week stand-off that was resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.

Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang are to hold talks on Wednesday on the issue, after both pledged to resolve the dispute during Li's visit to India in May.

Officials from both countries are racing ahead of Singh's arrival to finalise the so-called border defence co-operation pact, which includes provisions for better communications between their armies.

Singh will also seek progress on closing the trade gap between the two countries, including through increased Chinese investment by setting up industrial parks in India. China is India's biggest trading partner.