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Indian PM Leaves for Russia, China

  • VOA News

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Sept. 2, 2013.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Sept. 2, 2013.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left Sunday for a four-day trip to Russia and China aimed at strengthening trade ties and addressing a long-standing border dispute with Beijing.

The prime minister will also look to secure energy, defense and other economic deals.

Singh will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday with the focus on arms purchases. India, which is spending billions of dollars upgrading its military, has been Russia's top weapons buyer for years.

The Indian leader heads to China on Tuesday, seeking to forge closer economic ties and discuss a pact that addresses a decades-old stalemate along the countries' disputed border in a remote Himalayan region, following a flare-up in April.

The proposed border cooperation agreement will be a key part of the visit's agenda, with Singh saying before his departure that India and China "have historical issues and there are areas of concern."

Diplomats are working to finalize a document that may be signed during the visit.

Defense Expert Commodore C Uday Bhaskar is optimistic about Singh's visit to Beijing. "China has very strong perceptions about how they perceive the Line of Actual Control and the territorial claim that both sides have. My reading is that the best thing that could come out of this visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a more effective management of the way in which the two countries are patrolling the Line of Actual Control," he said.

In May, armies from the two countries ended a three-week standoff in the western Himalayas after Chinese troops set up a camp that India said was at least 10 kilometers inside territory claimed by India.

China denied that troops had crossed into Indian territory and both sides tried to play down the flare up, which was on the eve of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's first visit to India.

Singh said the world's two most populous countries and largest emerging economies have a "growing congruence of regional, global and economic interests" that India hopes to advance during his visit.