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Indian president begins rare state visit to China

Indian president begins rare state visit to China

Indian President Pratibha Patil will seek to soothe trade disputes and recent border tensions in meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing.
Patil is the first Indian head of state in a decade to visit her country's giant neighbor, an illustration of how ties remain cool almost 50 years after the countries fought a brief but bloody border war.
Patil was scheduled Thursday to meet with Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao before attending a signing ceremony for a number of bilateral agreements. Her six-day visit will also take her to the India pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai and to the central city of Luoyang, where she will attend a temple ceremony commemorating the arrival of Buddhism from India 2,000 years ago.
Such activities mark a push to strengthen ties between the two beset by mutual suspicion and a sharpening rivalry over resources and global markets to fuel their surging economies.
Indians frequently complain about a flood of Chinese exports that account for about two-thirds of bilateral trade, which grew by about 33 percent in 2008 to nearly $52 billion, but declined by as much as $10 billion last year amid disputes and the global economic slowdown.
Citing safety concerns, India last year issued a six-month ban on Chinese toy imports that dominate the local market, and launched investigations into other Chinese exports ranging from steel to pharmaceuticals.
In April, New Delhi also banned telecom equipment from Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE, citing national security concerns. The ban came less than a week after media reports that Chinese hackers had broken into the computer networks of India's security, defense and diplomatic establishments.
The most glaring disagreement remains the remote, mountainous China-India border, over which the two fought gun battles in 1962. The two lack even a commonly designated line of control, despite 13 rounds of settlement talks, and India recently beefed up its military presence along the frontier following accusations of increasing incursions by Chinese troops.
China, meanwhile, resents the presence in India of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile headed by the Himalayan region's Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled across the border amid an abortive rising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Beijing last year angrily protested a weeklong visit by the Dalai Lama to the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as Chinese territory. China for its part occupies a part of Kashmir claimed by India.
Despite such disputes, the two found common cause at last year's climate change talks in Copenhagen, uniting to resist attempts by industrialized nations to reach a new legally binding treaty after two years of U.N.-sponsored negotiations.
They have also sought to cooperate in global finance and coordinate foreign policy independently of the West _ with limited success thus far _ as the two largest of the so-called BRIC nations, which also include Russia and Brazil.