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China's Zhu Rongji Begins India Visit


Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji began a six-day visit to India on Sunday amid heightened tensions between South Asia's two nuclear neighbors, India and Pakistan. Mr. Zhu's visit comes one day after China's close ally in the region, Pakistan, pledged not to allow Pakistani territory to be used as a base for terrorism in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Zhu Rongji, the first Chinese premier to visit India since 1991, began his visit with a tour of the historic Taj Mahal, in the northern Indian city of Agra.

In the capital, New Delhi, government officials were focused on their response to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's pledge not to allow Pakistani territory to be used as a base for terrorism in India, but also calling for outside mediation to settle the Kashmir problem.

India's Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, said China's premier is not coming to New Delhi to mediate between India and Pakistan. "China has neither any intention, nor shall it play any mediatory role in matters that involve India and Pakistan," said Mr. Singh.

China has called on both India and Pakistan to exercise "restraint," as relations have deteriorated between New Delhi and Islamabad, following the December 13 attack on India's parliament by militant Kashmir separatists.

China's foreign ministry has called on New Delhi to open talks with Islamabad to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

During the talks in New Delhi, Indian officials are likely to raise the issue of China's close military ties with Pakistan. Chinese officials have denied reports in Pakistani newspapers that say, since the crisis with India began last month, Islamabad has received at least five shipments of military equipment, including a missile system and a number of fighter jets from Beijing

During his trip to India, Zhu Rongji is expected to focus on fostering bilateral economic ties between India and China, with visits planned to India's commercial hub, Bombay, and its high-tech capital, Bangalore.

His visit is likely to be marked by protests from Tibetan exiles, who have called on India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to ask Zhu Rongji to hold unconditional talks with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. More than 120,000 Tibetans have migrated to India following a failed 1959 revolt against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Another topic of discussion will be outstanding border issues with India. The two countries share a 4,500-kilometer-long Himalayan border, and China holds 40,000 square kilometers of land in Kashmir that India regards as its territory.

The two countries fought a brief war, won by the Chinese in 1962, but relations have improved in recent years, with both countries exchanging maps to resolve their border dispute and agreeing about the need to fight militant Islamic separatist movements within their borders.

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