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Indian Foreign Minister to Visit China to Reduce Tensions

India’s foreign minister Salman Khurshid will travel to China next month on a trip aimed at easing tensions between the world’s two most-populous countries amid a continuing dispute along their border.

Khurshid will visit Beijing for talks with Chinese officials on May 9, he told reporters in New Delhi today. India’s government has accused the Chinese army of straying into its territory in Depsang valley in Ladakh, a claim denied by China. Two meetings between the nations’ armies have failed to resolve the matter.

“If your relationship deteriorates, trade obviously is a factor,” Khurshid said. “That’s why we don’t want the relationship to deteriorate.”

The nuclear-armed neighbors, home to more than a third of the world’s people, have laid claims to territory held by the other and clashed during a brief border conflict in 1962. India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometers of territory in Jammu and Kashmir to the west, while the government in Beijing says 90,000 square kilometers of land in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India’s northeast, belongs to China.

Indian and Chinese military commanders have met twice on the border, the most recent one on April 23, with the aim of resolving the dispute. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai of the South Asian country summoned Wei Wei, the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi, for talks last week after the incident in northern India close to the western border of Tibet.

Chinese troops did not provoke the confrontation and acted in compliance with relevant treaties, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing today.

“It is inevitable for problems to crop up in border areas,” Hua said. “When there is a problem in the border area the two sides should resolve it through friendly consultation.”

Trade Ties

Military relations between the two countries were suspended in August 2010 after China issued a visa to an Indian army officer in charge of forces in Kashmir without stamping his passport, an act seen as questioning India’s rule over the disputed Himalayan territory. China has a close alliance with Pakistan, which has waged two wars with India over Kashmir.

India and China, which went to war five decades ago over part of their 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) boundary, have tried to prevent their disagreements from affecting economic ties. China is India’s second-largest trading partner and their combined trade was $50.9 billion in the April-December period, according to Indian government figures.

China is engaged in a series of territorial disputes, in the South and East China Seas, with countries including Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan. China has sent air and sea patrols and conducted military exercises across those areas in recent months as it presses its claims.

China’s People’s Liberation Army invaded and occupied Tibet in 1951, two years after the Communists came to power in China. Beijing says the region has always been part of China.

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