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Not a military alliance, says Shyam Saran

Tuesday 12 April 2005, by BARUAH*Amit

NEW DELHI, APRIL 11. The Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, said today that the India-China "strategic and cooperative partnership" was not a military alliance and not directed at any third country.

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MAP CORRECTED: The Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, today displayed this new, official Chinese map that shows Sikkim as part of India. Previously, China had corrected its official Foreign Ministry website and yearbook, but now this new map eliminates any ambiguity that persisted on Sikkim’s status in Chinese eyes. Mr. Saran told presspersons that the Chinese side handed over this map to the Indian side during official talks today. The joint statement issued by the two countries also spoke of ``Sikkim State of the Republic of India.’’

Addressing a press conference after what he said were "historic" talks between the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, Mr. Saran stressed that India-China relations had acquired a global character.

Mr. Saran stated that China had informed India that it would be "happy" to see India joining the ranks of the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. Asked about the recent Chinese statement calling for consensus on Council expansion, he said India’s approach to the issue did not have to be the same as China’s.

While admitting that there could be a difference in approach, the Foreign Secretary felt the important thing was that China had made a clear political statement that it favoured India’s entry into the Security Council as a permanent member.

With China’s support, four of the five permanent members of the Security Council have supported India entering the key U.N. institution. Only the United States has kept mum on India’s bid - Russia, France and Britain have already come out in open support of New Delhi’s candidature.

The joint statement said on the issue of U.N. reforms: "Both India and China agree that reform of the United Nations should be comprehensive and multi-faceted and should put emphasis on an increase in the representation of developing countries. The Indian side reiterated its aspirations for permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council. The Chinese side also reiterated that India is an important developing country and is having an increasingly important influence in the international arena. China attaches great significance to the status of India in international affairs ... "

The document also had both nations supporting the democratisation of international relations and rooting for multilateralism. Calling for the establishment of an international order that was fair, rational, equal and mutually beneficial, it said the gap between the North and South should be narrowed and common prosperity achieved through dialogue and cooperation.

In response to questions, Mr. Saran said there had been no specific discussion on Pakistan or any other country in the Manmohan-Wen discussions. However, Mr. Wen expressed support for the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan.

"China had no selfish interests to pursue in South Asia," Mr. Wen was quoted as telling the Indian Prime Minister. On China’s association with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and India obtaining observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), he said both sides agreed that regional cooperation was important.

While supporting each other’s participation in regional organisations, Mr. Saran said that no specifics had been discussed. On China’s association with SAARC, the Foreign Secretary maintained that member-nations could not take ad hoc decisions and would have to evolve agreed criteria for association.

Also, the specific nature and the mechanism of cooperation would have to be agreed upon. According to Mr. Saran, the SAARC Secretariat had been asked to prepare a paper on the issue, which would be taken up for discussion at the next summit of SAARC leaders. On the SCO, he remarked that India had already applied for "observer" status.

In response to specific questions, the Foreign Secretary said there had been no discussion on nuclear doctrines or on the issue of Nepal between the two sides today.

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