India says all issues 'on the table' on China PM's visit

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India says all issues will be "on the table", including a recent border spat and a festering trade imbalance, during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the South Asian giant which starts on Sunday.

At the same time New Delhi thinks "very highly" of Li's decision to make India his first overseas stop since taking charge as premier, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said on Saturday.

After arriving just after midday on Sunday, Li will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and later will be a guest at a dinner hosted by the Indian leader at his residence, officials said.

Such high-level exchanges are aimed at "enhancing trust", Akbaruddin added.

Ties between the neighbours have been dogged by mutual suspicion that lingers long after a 1962 border war high in the Himalayas.

India's joint foreign secretary for East Asia, Gautam Bambawale, said "everything is on the table" for discussion, including the border dispute and improving the nations' trade balance, which is tilted heavily in Beijing's favour.

"The two prime ministers will talk about these subjects," Bambawale said.

The border dispute with New Delhi flared last month into a three-week standoff after India alleged that Chinese troops intruded nearly 20 kilometres into Indian-claimed territory, highlighting longstanding tensions.

The Line of Actual Control between the nuclear-armed neighbours has never been formally demarcated although they have signed accords to maintain peace in the Himalayan area.

The world's two most populous countries have in recent years seen ties improve and trade boom, and both sides sought to stay low-key over the latest row.

Beijing said Chinese troops "never trespassed the line".

Separately, sources said Saturday that India would push for efforts to avoid such alleged occurrences in future, according to the Press Trust of India.

On Monday, the two leaders, accompanied by high-level delegations, will hold wideranging talks on key international, regional and bilateral issues.

On the economic front, Bambawale said India will press for more trade access to China. In 2012, bilateral trade was $66.5 billion - down from $74 billion in 2011 and a setback to the neighbours achieving their $100-billion goal by 2015.

India also faces an increasing trade deficit with China that totaled $29 billion in 2012, according to Chinese figures.

In addition, New Delhi will seek assurances that a Chinese plan to build three more hydropower dams across the mighty crossborder Brahmaputra river - known in China as the Yarlung Tsangpo - will not affect India's downstream water flow.

After New Delhi, Li will travel Tuesday to Indian financial hub Mumbai and then to Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany as Beijing seeks to address security and economic disputes.

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