Time to Settle Down?
Chinese President Xi Jinping and China’s first lady Peng Liyuan being welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at The Hotel Hyatt in Ahmedabad. The two leaders will oversee signing of three MoUs between government representatives of both the nations.
The meeting of China’s President Xi Jinping, during his recent visit to India, with our Prime Minister, Narender Modi, has been hailed as historic, depicting mutual bonding, and showcasing the trust and sincerity the two neighbors will build up by joining hands in weaving them into a beautiful canvas of shared dream of friendship and development.
By the end of their talks, about 20 agreements were signed; covering a variety of areas like investments into the road and port infrastructure of India, cooperation in space and in nuclear energy, construction of industrial parks in
India, joint efforts in combating terrorism, cultural cooperation and a twin cities agreement between Mumbai and Shanghai. However, the importance lies not in the number of signed documents, but the fact that Xi’s visit marks the beginning of a new stage in the development of the vast Eurasian space.
In terms of significance and outcome of the visit, these are some sectors which are likely to get affected after President’s
Xi Jinping’s India visit.
Relations between the two countries remained sour after China beat India in a brief border war in 1962 and have still maintained the dispute over 3,500-km (2,200-mile) frontier. India has reported a rise in incursions by Chinese troops in recent years, charges China denies. Modi is expected to take a tougher stance with neighbouring countries, including China.In the first such signal, Modi’s government eased restrictions on building roads and military facilities along the border to boost defence preparedness and close the gap on China’s superior transport network.
China often refuses to stamp visas on Indian passports from disputed territories. It has refused to issue visas to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh state, where the two countries fought the 1962 war, saying they do not need permission to travel to
China. In 2012, India started stamping its own map on visas it issues to holders of new Chinese passports that contain a map
depicting disputed territory within China’s borders. The visa issue is likely to be on the agenda during Xi’s visit.
China is India’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade at about $66 billion last year. However, $51 billion of that came from Chinese exports. India hopes new investments from China will partly help offset its trade deficit. China plans to invest about $7 billion in two industrial parks in western India. India will also ask China to set up manufacturing units for exports as it seeks to revive its economy.
India has the world’s fourth-longest rail network but has added only 11,000 km of track since independence in 1947. China, in comparison, added 14,000 km of track in the five years to 2011. China will take part in India’s effort in updating existing railways, including high speed and provide support to heavy haul and redevelopment of existing railway stations.
Leaders of the two energy-starved countries may discuss the possibility of a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Indian officials said, China has committed $6.5 billion to finance the construction of a major nuclear power project in Karachi, the financial hub of neighbouring Pakistan, India’s traditional foe. But Beijing might make a push to supply India with its new-generation reactors.
NO WAR ONLY PEACE
“A warlike state, however big it may be, will eventually perish,” Xi said in a speech, adding that China believed its neighbours were key to its wellbeing. He said China was committed to the path of peaceful development, addressing concerns in Asia about Beijing’s increasingly assertive territorial claims including in the South China Sea, a vital global trade route.
But the mood was stern when Modi and Xi emerged from a long meeting to address reporters soon after officials confirmed that soldiers had pulled back from their positions in a western Himalayan region claimed by India and China.
“I raised our serious concern over repeated incidents along the border,” said Modi, while sitting with Xi, duringtheir meet.
“There should be peace in our relations and in the borders. If this happens, we can realise true potential of our relations,” added Modi.
Raising hopes for a new push to resolve their territorial differences, Modi called for an early border settlement with China. The two sides have held 17 rounds of border talks since the early 1990s without making significant progress. Modi has yet to appoint a special envoy to restart the talks. We have to address the boundary question very soon,” Modi said, urging “clarification” of the Line of Actual Control – the frontline where fighting ended.
The world is infested with regional conflict and local wars, and many countries are striving for peace and stability. President Xi pointed out that, as two important forces in the process of multi-polarization, and countries of great influence in the world, if China and India speak with one voice, the whole world will listen, and if China and India join hands, the whole world will take notice. The two sides have agreed to enhance strategic communication and coordination in regional and international affairs, and act as active builders of international system. China has welcomed and supported India to become a full member in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). We hope the Indian side would support China’s effort to develop relations with South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). China and India should be strategic partners in global affairs, and strong anchors for regional peace.
AMBITIOUS TRADE TARGET
One of Xi’s most important proposals was that China and India should establish a closer partnership for development. China will invest 20 billion US Dollars in India in the next 5 years in various industrial and infrastructure development projects, and establish 2 industrial parks, one in Gujarat and one in Maharashtra. Modi is keen on Chinese investment to help balance $65 billion in annual trade that is heavily tilted in China’s favour. Xi promised more access for India’s pharmaceutical, farming and fuel
products to China. Xi also set a target to raise annual bilateral trade with South Asia to $150 billion in the next five years. The two sides signed the Five-Year Development Program for Economic and Trade Cooperation, and enhance cooperation in pharmaceutical, agricultural and IT products, so as Indian products could find greater access in Chinese market, thus paving a way for reducing the trade deficit and furthering and deepening economic cooperation.
The Need for such measures to be taken has emerged due to the following reasons:-
- With the eclipse of unipolarism and rise of multipolarism, China and India realise the need to cooperate with each other.
- After the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the need for stability in South Asia has increased manifold. Both these two Asian countries have a great stake in Afghanistan’s stability and the need to maintain the South Asian equilibrium.
- They desire for a peaceful periphery in order to focus on domestic socioeconomic, religious, ethnic and other issues.
- The long-standing boundary dispute reinforces mistrust over Chinese intentions. However, after the 1962 Chinese invasion, there has never been gunfire on the border between China and India unlike on the Indo-Pakistan border where blood flows very often. But despite increased engagement between the two countries on the border issue, it has the potential to stall, if not reverse, progress towards a more stable relationship.
- Tibet remains a key source of tension between the two countries though the two countries have found a way to manage
their differences on this issue. Even if the Prime Minister did not raise the Tibet issue, this issue came to limelight due to the protests by the Tibetan people residing in India. The Dalia Lama said that a peaceful and stable Tibet is in both China and India’s interests.
- China’s special relationship with Pakistan has been a major source of concern in India. Its role in strengthening Pakistan’s conventional, missile and nuclear capabilities and assistance to Pakistan in developing projects and infrastructure in disputed areas between India and Pakistan are also of considerable concern for India.
- China’s growing political, economic and military ties with India’s neighbours are also a subject of concern. China is developing its ties with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives and Sri Lanka which have military designs. China’s increased interest in the opening of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean has become an issue as India considers the area to fall in its neighbourhood. China regards its activities as part of its economic development plans and necessary to protect the security of its ships and oil interests, to which India is pursuing a wait and watch attitude.
- The trans-border river issue has become a subject of tension between China and India. Chinese dam construction on the Brahmaputra River and diversion of its water to its north-west area has become a matter of anxiety in India. Due to China’s unfriendly activities, flow of water in the north-east regions of India has become deficient which
is quite alarming. Information sharing agreements are being violated by China.
- The legacy of history remains a problem. Every time there is a border incident, it reinforces the narrative that prevailed in India since the 1962 war. The problem aggravates due to lack of connectivity, communication and little knowledge of the intentions of the other country.
- Trade imbalance between the two countries has increased. In 2010-11 the trade deficit was $ 28 billion and that increased to $ 40.8 billion in 2012- 13. Prior to the Chinese President’s visit, Chinese officials had claimed that Xi would commit to invest at least $ 100 billion in India. However, the agreement inked in New Delhi could reach hardly $ 20 billion Chinese investment in India.
- The visa liberalisation agreement which was negotiated in 2013 could not be signed during the Chinese President’s recent India visit. India has refused to conclude the agreement until China abandons its policy of issuing stapled visas for Arunachal Pradesh residents.
At the outset, the atmospherics of the visit and chemistry between the two leaders has been widely reported throughout the world by nearly 200 journalists, major TV channels, newspapers and online media from China, India and other countries as they scrambled for the coverage.
The success of the visit, as well as the hospitality, sincerity and friendship shared by the Indian Prime Minister and
Chinese President, has set up a new mark in the history of both the countries. I am more than ever confident about the future of China-India relations. I am looking forward to witness these two powers coming together and raising the China-
India strategic cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity to a new level mark in the World in the times to come.