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India PM Eyes More Trade, Investment With China

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets his Chinese counterpart on Monday on a trip in which the world's two fastest-growing major economies will seek to put aside a lingering border dispute to build trade and investment.

Singh said both sides wanted to work towards creating an environment for greater economic interaction.

"This has to include creating a level playing field by addressing such issues as non-tariff barriers, IPR (intellectual property rights) protection and market-directed exchange rates," Singh told business officials on Monday, adding that all countries had to compete in a global market.

"Such competition is not inconsistent with cooperation, nor is it adversarial," he said.

Singh began his visit on Sunday on a friendly note with visits to sites for the 2008 Olympics, which Beijing will host in August, including the Olympic Project Exhibition Centre, which displays models of the main venues.

Singh later had a private dinner with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. He is to hold formal talks with Wen on Monday, before meeting President Hu Jintao on Tuesday.

Ties between China and India, the world's most populous nations, have been deepening as trade grows and as the two face common challenges on issues such as climate change and energy security.

But the neighbors must also break down historic wariness over China's traditional friendship with Indian rival Pakistan, and a decades-long border dispute that flared into a brief war in 1962.

Analysts say Singh's visit is unlikely to bring any breakthrough on the border dispute, which centers on China's claims to much of India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, land Beijing says is rightly part of Tibet.

"The Tibet issue is at the core of the India-China divide, and without Beijing beginning a process of reconciliation in Tibet, there is little prospect of Sino-Indian differences being bridged," wrote Khedroob Thondup, a member of the Tibet government-in-exile, which is based in India.

"... Beijing values its claims on additional Indian territories as vital leverage to keep India under pressure."

Bilateral trade in 2007 rose 56 percent from a year earlier to $38.6 billion, according to China's Commerce Ministry. Despite the growing trade, India is unhappy that the balance is increasingly skewed in China's favor, and China complains of barriers to direct investment.