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China, India Reach Defense Cooperation Deal

Longtime regional competitors China and India have agreed to strengthen defense cooperation along their disputed, and sometimes tense, Himalayan border.

The confidence building deal was signed Wednesday in Beijing following a meeting by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The agreement calls for greater military-to-military communication and expanded joint efforts, such as combating smuggling and natural disasters. It also calls for both sides to exercise "maximum self-restraint" in the event of a confrontation in disputed areas.

Prime Minister Singh said the pact will help ensure the India-China relationship is not further strained by the decades-old border dispute, which flared up in April.



"Premier Li and I have agreed that the peace and tranquility of our borders must remain the foundation for growth in the India-China relationship. Even as we move forward the negotiations towards a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement to the India-China boundary question, this will be our strategic benchmark."



In April, India accused Chinese troops of setting up a camp that was at least 10 kilometers inside territory claimed by India. China denied that troops had crossed into Indian territory.



Premier Li also stressed that the border standoff should not get in the way of bilateral relations.



"There are far more common interests than differences between China and India. China and India are two old civilizations. Our two peoples have the wisdom and our two governments have the ability to manage our differences along our border, so they will not affect the overall interests of our bilateral relationship."



Prime Minister Singh, who is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, is also using the visit to forge closer economic ties with Beijing. Specifically, India wants greater access to Chinese markets in order to balance out trade that is heavily tilted in China's favor.

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