Chinese Premier on Trust-Building Trip to India

By Ravi Nessman | December 15, 2010 | 6:33 AM EST

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrives in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. He’s on a three-day visit to build trust between the rival neighbors amid lingering disputes over territory, trade and telecoms. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

New Delhi (AP) - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's trip to India Wednesday is intended to build trust between two Asian powers with increasingly close economic ties despite their ongoing competition for regional influence.

The two sides were expected to discuss their lingering border disputes, a growing trade imbalance and friction over India's role in Kashmir, the restive region that is also claimed by India's archrival, Pakistan.

Wen, who arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday afternoon for a three-day trip, was scheduled to visit a school to discuss Chinese culture, a week after the government decided to add Mandarin to the basket of languages taught at Indian schools. On Thursday he was to hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh.

The world's two most populous countries have worked to play down their tensions.

"We are, from the Indian side, looking at the positive side of the outcome. The trade is growing between the two countries, the people-to-people exchanges are increasing, high-level visits are also increasing," India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told the CNN-IBN news channel.

The talks between Wen and Singh are expected to touch on the tensions and rivalries that have marked the historic relationship between the two nations.

A dispute over their border, which sparked a brief war in 1962, remains unresolved despite 14 rounds of discussions over the issue.

China has also upset India by refusing to stamp visas in passports held by residents from Kashmir, in a move seen as questioning New Delhi's sovereignty over the restive region.

The Chinese state-run Global Times, which is seen as reflecting the government's view, appealed for the two countries to find a way to resolve tensions.

"As two Asian powers with vast territories, neither country could bear strategic confrontation, nor could the entire region. More benefits would come to both countries by solving problems, rather than expanding and focusing on conflict," the newspaper said in an editorial.

Wen brought a trade delegation of more than 300 business officials with him and the two sides are expected to sign agreements on energy and infrastructure development and for close cooperation in the financial sector, especially in banking.

China is India's largest trading partner, with annual trade expected to reach $60 billion this year. However, Indian business has complained about a trade imbalance that heavily favors China, and Singh is expected to push for greater access to Chinese markets for Indian pharmaceutical and software companies.

Chandrasekhar Dasgupta, India's former ambassador to China, said the deepening ties between the two countries raise the chances for resolving their lingering disputes.

"As trade exchanges, cultural exchanges grow and there is greater interactions between our people, all this will help to create a better climate for our people to negotiate the border issue," he said.

The two countries have also been competing over resources and global markets.

China, seeking influence around the region, has irked India by expanding ties with nations around India, including Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan. Wen is scheduled to head to Pakistan on Friday after his visit here.

China, for its part, resents the presence in India of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama.

Despite their disputes, India and China have worked together internationally on climate change issues and for a greater say in global finance.