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Chinese premier backs Indian links

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao has called for greater co-operation and friendship with India, brushing over economic and political tensions that mar the relationship between the two countries.

Mr Wen's three-day trip to India is aimed at building trust and strengthening economic links between the two neighbours. It also appeared part of a Chinese effort to blunt US influence in India.

The Chinese leader stressed the growing financial and cultural ties between the two nations by visiting an Indian school to discuss the Chinese language and calligraphy, and addressing a gathering of business leaders.

Mr Wen brought 300 Chinese business officials with him on his trip, and Indian and Chinese companies are signing deals worth 16 billion US dollars during his visit.

"I hope that my visit will help increase our co-operation in a wide range of fields and raise our friendship and co-operation to an even higher level," he told reporters after a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace.

Mr Wen was to meet prime minister Manmohan Singh later to discuss how to tackle the trade imbalance between the two countries that is heavily weighted in China's favour, 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.

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