China and India signed an agreement on border defense cooperation yesterday, after a standoff along a disputed border in April stoked fears of conflict between the Asian giants.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, visiting Beijing to seek a breakthrough in the border row that has soured relations for decades, witnessed the signing of the agreement alongside Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強).
The agreement will “help to maintain peace, tranquility and stability in our border areas,” Li said following the ceremony.
No further details on the pact were immediately available, but it was expected to include provisions for better communications between the two armies.
China and India fought a brief war in 1962 and the border between them has never been properly demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace.
Nonetheless in April India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20km into Indian-held territory, sparking a standoff that was only resolved three weeks later, when troops from both sides eventually pulled back.
Li said the two would hold joint counterterrorism training in southwest China and “strengthen cooperation to combat terrorism.”
China blames “terrorist” groups for incidents in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uighurs, and has in the past linked clashes to groups trained in neighboring Pakistan.
Delhi and Beijing signed nine deals yesterday, including separate memorandums of understanding to strengthen cooperation on transborder rivers and transport.
China is India’s biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totaling US$67.83 billion in the last fiscal year, up from US$2.1 billion in 2001 to 2002.
India’s trade deficit with its neighbor soared to US$40.77 billion last year from just US$1.08 billion in 2001 to 2002, Indian figures show.
Singh was also expected to seek progress on closing the trade gap, including through increased Chinese investment in India.