Hua Hin (Thailand): India and China on Saturday pledged not to let their differences derail bilateral relations as Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao held a much-awaited meeting in Hua Hin amid strained ties.
At a nearly hour-long meeting, both leaders avoided the most contentious issues - Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama's proposed November visit to the northeastern state that China opposes - as they discussed ways to build a relationship marred by a lingering border dispute.
"We have reached important consensus on promoting bilateral ties, and I believe that our two countries maintain a good relationship in the future, which conforms with the interests of the two countries," Wen said at the beginning of the talks.
Both Manmohan Singh and Wen agreed that differences between them on a range of issues should not be allowed to act as impediments.
According to N Ravi, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry, Manmohan Singh said that both sides should take measures at the political and diplomatic level to foster better understanding and trust "so that our relationship remained strong and robust".
"Neither side should allow differences to act as impediment in the growth of functioning cooperation," he said.
The Indian and Chinese leaders met on the sidelines of the ASEAN and East Asia summits in this Thai resort.
Ravi said the Wen-Manmohan talks were held "in a warm and friendly atmosphere".
Wen underlined that India and China, which fought a border war in 1962 and still claim each other's territory, should maintain peace and strengthen bilateral relationship.
He also concurred with Manmohan Singh's assessment that "our relations should be properly handled through discussions and should not become impediments in bilateral relationship".
Wen, who congratulated Manmohan Singh on his re-election as Prime Minister, added: "We want to have a healthy and steady relationship with India."
Manmohan Singh and Wen shook hands warmly at the start of their meeting, their first since they met in New York in October last year. "I am excited to see you," Manmohan Singh told Wen.
Hailing 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China, the Manmohan Singh said the Chinese people have had a number of achievements "and we share their sense of accomplishment".
Saturday's meeting has not resolved the dispute over Arunachal Pradesh, which has become a bone of contention, and China's bitter objection to the planned November visit to the state by the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India in self-exile since 1959.
Both Beijing and the official Chinese media have in recent times taken an unusually aggressive stance over Arunachal Pradesh.
New Delhi has in turn criticised Beijing's decision to undertake projects in Pakistani Kashmir, saying this would impact negatively on India-China relations. The Chinese military has also been accused of foraying into Indian border areas. This has been denied by Beijing.
Earlier on Saturday, an Indian official said there was political consensus in India on building better relations with China. But this had to be based on mutual self-respect, he emphasised.
Manmohan Singh has a packed programme on Saturday and Sunday.
Besides taking part in the seventh summit between India and the 10-member Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday and at the fourth East Asia Summit Sunday involving the ASEAN and six other countries, the Prime Minister will hold a string of bilateral meetings with leaders from the region.
He will hold discussions with the Prime Ministers of Cambodia and Thailand later Saturday. Sunday's bilateral meetings will include those with the prime ministers of Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.
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