NEW DELHI >> Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called Thursday for greater cooperation and friendship with India, brushing over lingering economic and political tensions that mar the relationship between the two rising Asia powers.
Wen’s three-day trip to India, which began Wednesday, was aimed at building trust and strengthening economic links between the two neighbors. It also appeared part of a Chinese effort to blunt U.S. influence in India.
Wen stressed the growing financial and cultural ties between the two nations by visiting an Indian school Wednesday to discuss the Chinese language and calligraphy and addressing a gathering of business leaders. Wen brought 300 Chinese business officials with him on his trip, and Indian and Chinese companies are signing $16 billion worth of deals during his visit.
”I hope that my visit will help increase our cooperation in a wide range of fields and raise our friendship and cooperation to an even higher level,” he told reporters Thursday morning after a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace.
Wen was to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later Thursday to discuss how to tackle the trade imbalance between the two countries that is heavily weighted in China’s favor and ongoing border disputes — which sparked a brief war in 1962.
They are also expected to address China’s refusal to stamp visas in passports of residents of Indian-held Kashmir, a move seen as questioning New Delhi’s sovereignty over the restive region also claimed by Pakistan.