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China, India PMs to discuss border dispute, trade

Update: May, 20/2013 - 13:27

NEW DELHI – Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will hold talks with a string of Indian leaders on Monday as the two sides look to rebuild trust after a recent flare-up in a border dispute as well as boost trade.

Li, who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon, has said that his decision to choose India for his first foreign visit since taking office "indicates the great importance Beijing attaches to its relations" with New Delhi.

India for its part has been keen to ensure that a spat over troop movements in a disputed Himalayan border region last month is not allowed to derail a general warming in ties between the world's two most populous countries.

After more informal talks between Li and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Sunday night, the two premiers were due to hold more detailed discussions on Monday.

Li is also scheduled to meet Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and senior figures from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party before heading on Tuesday to the financial hub, Mumbai.

India's joint foreign secretary for East Asia, Gautam Bambawale, said at the weekend that "everything is on the table" for discussion with Li, including the border dispute in the remote Ladakh region which has been the subject of 15 rounds of high-level talks.

China is India's second-largest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling US$66.5 billion last year.

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping told reporters last week that he was optimistic that the target of reaching $100 billion by 2015 would be met. But the figure in 2012 was in fact a fall from the $74 billion for 2011 and India is also facing an increasing trade deficit with China that totalled $29 billion in 2012.

After wrapping up his visit to India, Li is due to travel to neighbouring Pakistan before heading to Switzerland and Germany. AFP

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