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Indian PM calls for closer ties with China
Updated: 2006-01-02 10:02

India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said he wanted to forge closer ties with China and urged Beijing to inject "substance" into the growing bilateral relationship.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard (L) and Indian Premier Manmohan Singh. Singh has said he wanted to forge closer ties with China and urged Beijing to inject 'substance' into the growing bilateral relationship. [AFP]

In a New Year's Day message to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Singh said the two populous Asian neighbours must make 2006 the year of India-China friendship, in line with a pledge made last year.

"We are confident that in the new year, we will be able to continue, with greater determination, to impart further depth and substance to our rapidly growing ties, and add an important new chapter to India-China friendship," Singh said Sunday.

"Our fast-developing relationship today transcends the bilateral dimension and is an important determinant for the peace and security as well as development and prosperity, of Asia and the world", Singh said.

"It is also important that we continue adding greater substance to our bilateral exchanges and international cooperation," the Indian prime minister said in his message to Wen, who visited India in April last year.

Singh also said both India and China have made progress in negotiations over thorny issues such as a border dispute which resulted in a brief but a bloody war in 1962.

"India and China have made significant progress in addressing some of the long-standing issues in our relationship without allowing them to define the agenda of our cooperative ties," Singh added.

A formal ceasefire line has yet to be established following the war but the unsettled border has remained largely peaceful following agreements signed in 1993 and 1996.

Bilateral ties have been warming in recent years with an exchange of high-level visits and joint military exercises. Trade reached 13.6 billion dollars in 2004 and is targeted to hit 30 billion dollars by 2010.

Indian foreign ministry officials, meanwhile, said Wen replied to Singh's New Year's greeting on an equally-positive note.

"China is ready to work with India... to continuously deepen the contents of our bilateral relations and push forward the China-India strategic and partnership in an all-round and in-depth way," Wen said in his message Sunday.

Some analysts, however, have voiced doubts about whether a durable partnership between the two neighbours who have a history of suspicion and hostility can work.

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