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India, China ink border pact

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang inspect Chinese guards of honour during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing , China on Wednesday. Photo: PTI.

BEIJING (PTI): India and China on Wednesday reached a comprehensive agreement to avoid border tensions and army face-offs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by deciding that neither side will use military capability to attack the other side nor tail patrols along the border.

The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) was signed after extensive talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People.

The deal comes against the backdrop of strain in ties following a series of Chinese intrusions including the prolonged one by People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops in the Depsang valley in Ladakh in April this year.

Affirming to continue to implementing confidence building measures in the military field along the LAC, the BDCA agreed to consider establishing a Hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries and specific arrangements which will be decided by mutual consultations.

The two sides agreed that they shall not follow or tail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding of the LAC and in case of a doubtful situation, clarifications shall be sought and got through established mechanisms.

The lack of clarity and the difference in perceptions about the LAC have been blamed by both the sides for the intrusions. The PLA intrusion in Depsang Valley in Ladakh lasted three weeks before Chinese troops withdrew to their original position.

India and China also agreed that if their border defence forces come to a "face-to-face" situation in areas where there is no common understanding of the LAC, both sides shall exercise maximum self-restraint, refrain from any provocative actions, not use force or threaten to use force against the other side, treat each other with courtesy and prevent exchange of fire or armed conflict.

"The two sides shall implement this Agreement without prejudice to their respective positions on the alignment of the LAC as well as on the boundary question," according to the deal.

The BDCA recalled the spirit of the various agreements between the two countries on border management since 1993 and the establishment of a working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China Border Affairs signed in January, 2012.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the agreement on BDCA that has just been signed will add to the existing instruments to ensure peace, stability and predictability on the borders.

To build mutual trust, he said, the two sides have agreed to enhance transparency and strengthen strategic communication at all levels, including on the shared neighbourhood.

In all 9 agreements, including the BDCA and one on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers, were signed after restricted and delegation-level talks that lasted over two hours as Singh and Premier Li met for the second time this year for talks which the Indian leader described as "fruitful and productive".

"The agreements and MoUs signed on Wednesday in various areas covering defence cooperation, road transport sector, trans-border rivers, power equipment, cultural exchanges Nalanda University and sister linkages will build on our impressive range cooperation," Singh said.

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