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Chinese premier visits India to boost ties

NEW DELHI — Just weeks after a tense border standoff, China’s new premier visited India on Sunday on his first foreign trip as the neighboring giants look to speed up efforts to settle a decades-old boundary dispute and boost economic ties.

Premier Li Keqiang met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and the two leaders emphasized that efforts should be made to resolve the border dispute between the two countries that led to a bloody war in 1962, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

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The two leaders also underscored the need for maintaining peace and tranquility along the de facto border pending resolution of the boundary issue, Akbaruddin said.

In a written statement on his arrival in the Indian capital, Li said China regarded India as an important partner and friend and expressed the hope that his visit would inject new vigor into their cooperative partnership, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Li said both China and India were speeding up their development and making steady efforts to boost their economies and improve people’s lives.

The statement said the major markets of India and China could complement each other and fulfill the need for common development, PTI reported.

China says Li’s choice of India for his first trip abroad since taking office in March shows the importance Beijing attaches to improving relations with New Delhi.

‘‘We think very highly of this gesture because it is our view that high-level political exchanges between our two countries are an important aspect and vehicle for our expanded cooperation,’’ said Akbaruddin.

Jasjit Singh, a defense analyst and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in New Delhi, said last month’s border standoff was unlikely to overshadow Li’s three-day visit, the first stop of a foreign tour that also includes Pakistan, Switzerland, and Germany.

Singh said Indian and Chinese leaders are likely to review border talks that have failed to produce a breakthrough despite 15 rounds of discussions over the past 10 years. The two sides also will probably discuss working together in Afghanistan after next year’s US pullout and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries, he said.

But tensions run high between the two nations. China already sees itself as Asia’s great power, while India hopes its increasing economic and military might — though still far below its neighbor’s — will eventually put it in the same league.

While China has worked to shore up relationships with Nepal and Sri Lanka in India’s traditional South Asian sphere of influence, India has been venturing into partnerships with Southeast Asian nations.

Other irritants remain in the bilateral relationship. China is a longtime ally and weapons supplier to Pakistan, India’s bitter rival. Also, the presence in India of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile are a source of tension.

Unresolved border issues between the two nations have flared as well.

In last month’s incident, India said Chinese troops crossed the countries’ de facto border on April 15 and pitched camp in the Depsang valley in eastern Kashmir. New Delhi responded with diplomatic protests and then moved its soldiers just 300 yards from the Chinese position. The two sides negotiated a peaceful end to the standoff by withdrawing troops to their original positions in the Ladakh area.

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