- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

NEW DELHI — India and China agreed yesterday to form a strategic partnership to end a border dispute and boost trade between the world’s two most populous countries.

The agreement, signed by both prime ministers, eases decades of mutual distrust between the nations, which share a mountainous 2,500-mile border and fought a war in 1962. Parts of the border still are not demarcated.

“India and China can together reshape the world order,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a ceremony for his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, at India’s presidential palace.

Together, the two nations account for one-third of the world’s population.

The agreement outlined steps to demarcate the disputed boundary through a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution, through equal and friendly consultations,” a statement announcing the partnership said.

The agreement does not involve defense arrangements, so it will not give Chinese ships the use of Indian ports.

An 11-point plan to settle the border dispute was finalized Sunday at a meeting between Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, the leader of Beijing’s delegation to the talks.

Under the plan, the countries would consider historical factors, geographical features, people living in the area, security and whether the area was under Indian or Chinese control when marking the border.

India says China still holds 16,000 square miles of its territory in the Kashmir region, and Beijing lays claim to a wide swath of territory in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 650-mile border with China’s Tibet region.

China also recognized the Himalayan territory of Sikkim, located between Nepal and the kingdom of Bhutan, as a part of India, an Indian foreign ministry official said.

“A new map which the Chinese have published shows Sikkim as part of India. This is no longer an issue between us,” Shyam Saran, a top official in the External Affairs Ministry, told reporters.

Sikkim was an independent principality before it was annexed by India in 1975. China never recognized Sikkim as an Indian possession.

Mr. Saran said, “The partnership is not a military alliance nor is it directed against a third country.”

However, the deal could alarm authorities in Pakistan, a longtime rival of India that looks to China for trade and military support.

Yesterday’s statement, while giving few details, said the agreement would promote diplomatic relations and economic ties and contribute to the nations’ “jointly addressing global challenges and threats.”

“The leaders of the two countries have therefore agreed to establish an India-China strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity,” the statement said.

The two countries also signed cooperation agreements in areas such as civil aviation, finance, education, science and technology, tourism and cultural exchanges.

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