Indian president urges end to border dispute

China and India should work to ensure burden of issue does not fall on future generations, he says

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has urged a swift resolution to the border dispute between his country and China, saying future generations should not be burdened with this issue.

His comments came as he met top Chinese leaders in Beijing yesterday, on the third day of his inaugural state visit to China.

Territorial disputes on both sides of the Himalayas remain one of the thorniest bilateral issues between the Asian giants, dating back to a brief border war in 1962.

The two countries pledged in May last year to cool the dispute and Mr Mukherjee served a reminder yesterday that it was incumbent on both sides to focus on nurturing regional prosperity and security.

Addressing India-China relations in a speech at Peking University, Mr Mukherjee said: "Both sides should work with the aim of ensuring that we do not burden our coming generations by leaving our unresolved problems and differences to them.

"I am confident that by ensuring that these matters are not aggravated and by remaining sensitive to mutual concerns, we can minimise our differences and maximise our convergences."

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who received Mr Mukherjee at the Great Hall of the People, similarly urged the two countries to build a strong foundation of mutual trust and "maintain strategic communication".

"The two sides must properly handle differences," said Mr Xi, who visited India in 2014. He also said yesterday that the two countries should expand cooperation for the benefit of their citizens.

Mr Mukherjee separately met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang yesterday.

His visit - the first by an Indian president since 2010 - is seen as an attempt to reinvigorate bilateral ties, which appear to have lost some steam following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to Beijing in May last year.

Last month, Beijing upset New Delhi when it blocked an Indian request to add Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, to a United Nations sanctions blacklist.

China has also been blocking India's bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

These were seen as part of larger regional strategic jostling between the two countries, with India also seeking to find a balance in its relationships with China and the United States.

In what appeared to be an indirect reference to these incidents, Mr Mukherjee yesterday reminded China in his speech at Peking University of the "constant public support" his country gave for China's entry into the UN, and for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Separately, Mr Mukherjee has also been on a mission to boost trade and investment between the two countries, which amounted to US$71 billion (S$98 billion) last year - well short of the ambitious US$100 billion target that they set in 2010.

"Trade and commerce can be the most powerful agents in reinforcing our complementarities," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'Indian president urges end to border dispute'. Print Edition | Subscribe