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India PM leaves for Russia, China


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday left for a trip to Russia and China to try and strengthen trade ties and address a festering border dispute with Beijing.

The prime minster will look to secure energy, defence and other economic deals in both countries.

In a statement before leaving India, the 81-year-old spoke of Delhi's long-standing defence and trade ties with Russia.

"The scope of our relationship with Russia is unique, encompassing strong and growing cooperation in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, science and technology, hydrocarbons, trade and investment," he said in a statement.

It added that the prime minister would try and address India's "areas of concern" during his visit to Beijing.

"India and China have historical issues and there are areas of concern," Singh said.

"The two governments are addressing them with sincerity and maturity, without letting them affect the overall atmosphere of friendship and cooperation," he said.

"I will be discussing some of these issues as part of strategic communication between leaders with a forward-looking and problem-solving approach," he said before leaving on the four-day trip.

India seeks a breakthrough on an ongoing border row with China that has soured ties for decades, after the leaders of the two Asian giants pledged earlier this year to build up trust.

Singh will meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday with the focus on strengthening the supply of arms to India.

India, which is spending billions of dollars upgrading its military, has been Russia's top weapons buyer for years.

Both countries will also be looking to seal accords on the next phase of a Russian-built nuclear power project on India's southern coast. The project is designed to help meet India's surging demand for electricity, but has been dogged by delays and protests over safety.

Singh will head to China on Tuesday looking to forge closer economic ties and ink a pact to ease tension along their disputed border in a remote Himalayan region, following a flare-up in April.

India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-held territory, sparking a three-week standoff that was only resolved when troops from both sides eventually pulled back.

China and India fought a brief war in 1962, and the border between the two nations has never been properly demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace.

Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang are to hold talks on Wednesday on the issue, after both pledged to resolve the dispute during Li's visit to India in May.