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Economic woes to take centre stage at Asean summit

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is readying to meet US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday morning.

PM on his arrival at Bali for the Asean Summit. PM on his arrival at Bali for the Asean Summit.
On the margins of the Asean and East Asian Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is readying to meet US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday morning.

This is the first meeting between the Indian PM and President Obama since his visit to India last November.

SPECIAL: Obama's India Visit - Full coverage

Manmohan Singh's meeting with Wen Jiabao, immediately after the Obama meeting, needs to be viewed against the backdrop of recent controversies notably the oil exploration fracas in the South China Sea, the purported confrontation between INS Airavat and the Chinese Navy in the same area and the Chinese Ambassador asking an Indian journalist to shut up after a distorted Indian map appeared in a Chinese brochure.

Government sources played down maritime and border security issues with China saying that the East Asian Summit (EAS) needs to start examining such issues. The big question swirling in this beach destination is - who owns South China Sea? Sources said, "The law of the sea needs to be accepted because a difference of interpretation exists. Hence, a Commission should be set up to look into the dispute. It is not only a decision on territorial waters."

There is also talk that a group of Asean nations is negotiating with China on this issue and has agreed to establish a code of conduct.

While a flux exists about South China Sea, India is sticking to its stand on freedom of navigation because rights of passage are critical for India given its importance as a trade route. So, cooperation on maritime security is one of the items on the meet's agenda.

On Obama's meeting, government sources were candid but cautious. There appears to be a case of Indo- US relations going off the boil in recent times. Relations are in very good shape and the level of engagement has ramped up, stated top government sources. Political dialogue on Pakistan, Afghanistan, West Asia, south east Asia and the Security Council is now part of an allencompassing dialogue.

Sources said, "If we were to do a quick tally of last November's Obama visit, then we have made rapid progress and at the same time these are evolving all the time given that US has domestic, political and economic compulsions as it goes into election year." The current global situation and economic ramifications will be the focus of the Manmohan- Obama meet, and not maritime security.

All eyes though are on the Wen Jiabao- Manmohan meet given the recent context. From a single interface restricted to the boundary issue, there is a growing congruence on economic issues, climate change partnership and BRICS alliances which means a full spectrum relationship.

According to government sources, intrusions are down and in fact quite predictable.

Sources averred, "The relationship with China, though complex and hard to predict, is now on a more even keel. Wen Jiabao wants a mechanism for peace and tranquility. This will finally translate into a line. We are trying to arrive at a mutually agreeable framework which can deliver these inputs."

Courtesy: Headlines Today / Mail Today