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China, India Focus on Strengthening Relations - 2002-01-14

China's prime minister met with Indian leaders Monday on the second day of a visit that is seen as a signal of steadily improving ties between the two countries. It is the first visit by a Chinese prime minister in more than a decade.

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji met with his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and other top officials for talks that Indian officials say focused mainly on strengthening bilateral political and economic ties.

The leaders also agreed on the need to fight terrorism. The Chinese prime minister said China is opposed to terrorism in all its forms, and the international community should root it out.

The Chinese leader comes to India at a time of heightened tensions between New Delhi and Pakistan that have led to fears of a possible military confrontation. India accuses Pakistan of sanctioning what New Delhi calls "cross-border terrorism" in Kashmir.

Analysts say Beijing wants to end years of mistrust in its relations with New Delhi to offset growing U.S. influence in the region. The relationship was troubled for decades, due to a lingering boundary dispute, and China's traditionally friendly ties with Pakistan.

But New Delhi says it wants to improve its relationship with China.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said after Monday's talks that New Delhi and Beijing are developing a multi-faceted relationship.

"I reaffirmed India's commitment to further deepening and broadening the relationship as two largest neighbors, as two ancient civilizations and two great people comprising almost a third of the humanity," he said.

A major focus of the visit is economic cooperation. After meeting Indian leaders, the Chinese prime minister is heading for India's financial capital Bombay, and its software city, Bangalore. China and India want to explore the potential for partnership in the growing information technology sector. Both countries also want to increase bilateral trade.

The Chinese and Indian prime ministers have signed several agreements covering areas such as science and technology and tourism.

The Chinese prime minister's visit was not without controversy. Sunday and Monday, hundreds of Tibetan exiles, as well as several Indian groups supporting the Tibetan cause held protest rallies in the Indian capital to urge the Chinese prime minister to hold talks with the supreme Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet. More protests are planned in Bombay, which the Chinese leader visits Tuesday. India is home to more than 100,000 Tibetan exiles.