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June - July 2005
Wen Jibao, The Chinese Prime Minister, Comes Calling on New Delhi
The supposed impact of the famous handshake was put to test at the 4 day visit in April 2005 of Wen Jaibao, the Prime Minister of China to India.
For more than 3 decades since the sixties, India, then a nation bereft of much clout on the world stage, had ardently courted the friendship of China almost unilaterally. It was a lonely furrow and the frustrations of New Delhi having to countenance an unresponsive Beijing were immense. The two nations even fought a short and sharp war in 1962. Mercifully, the circumstances changed, thanks to India’s recent spectacular economic growth and the programme of modernisation of its armed forces on an unprecedented scale. India is now both economically and militarily a powerful nation.
Beijing is beginning to realise that not only India needs China for vital support but that, in an inter-dependent world, China has also no choice other than to seek India’s partnership – a vibrant democracy of a billion people, a responsible member of the UN, offering the attractions of a huge untapped market with a highly educated middle class of approximately 300 million, a leader in IT, commanding an impressive base of scientific research, a nuclear power and a neighbour with 2400 miles of common borders - to help push each others strategic and economic agendas on the world stage for mutual benefit.
India too recognises that China is emerging as a military as well as an economic superpower with the potential to overtake the US in the near future. The attractions of a huge market opening up next door is not one to be ignored any longer. Bordering such a country should therefore be regarded more as an asset and an opportunity waiting to be explored rather than seen as a threat in the context of its past experience.
immediate concerns therefore should be that irritants of the past need
to be set aside. Co-operation not confrontation should guide the relationship
between the two Asian giants.
Both China and India need to resolve peacefully and amicably the vexed border disputes, that have soured their relationship since the sixties. Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control is therefore of prime importance.
Push for a massive expansion in trade and commerce for mutual benefit China should support India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, which is one issue that will help bonding the two nations together.
China should consider taking symbolic steps to retract from using Pakistan as an instrument for the military containment of India.
Work closely on the world stage on developmental and strategic issues within the context of the UN, WTO, G-8 and other such international bodies.
The two nations should begin work towards establishing a strategic relationship.
questions that instantly come to mind are: Given today’s circumstances,
how far China or for that matter India are prepared to go to accommodate
each others rising expectations ?
In the background of the UN General Assembly taking up the issue of restructuring of the Security Council in September 2005 in New York, India, as a contender for a permanent seat in the UNSC, has been recently working overtime drumming up support from among the 191 members of the UN to its candidature.
Taking note of the conditions of peace and tranquillity prevailing along the Line of Actual Control, the desperate urgency for finding a framework of solutions to the long-festering border disputes has therefore taken just a step back in the order of priorities. The areas needing attention have shifted to securing Chinese support for India’s case for a permanent seat in the UNSC and giving a big push to the need to expand trading relationship.
Of the 5 permanent members of the UNSC, India has secured commitments of support from three nations namely Britain, France and Russia. While the US says that it has not made up its mind yet although it acknowledges that India is already a major world power, China seems to be sitting on the fence unable to come clean, although it is interested in promoting a strategic relationship with India. Pakistan’s opposition to India’s case for a seat in the UNSC may be a factor in China’s prevarication on the issue. There are several other reasons too. Securing the support of China during Wen Jiabao visit therefore stood as a serious challenge for India. According to press reports, We Jiabao told Manmohan Singh during their delegation level talks on April 11, 2005 “China would be pleased to see India as a permanent member of the UNSC”. What followed was a media hype interpreting the supposed statement as Beijing’s firm commitment to New Delhi. Which was not the case. What Wen said was that China would be “pleased” to see India as a permanent member in the UNSC. The statement was left open to interpretations. Coinciding with Wen’s India visit, Beijing was witnessing demonstrations, for the first time since Tiananmen Square, protesting against possible inclusion of Japan as a permanent member of the UNSC, which China opposes. China’s India stand, non-committal though it was, surely looked reassuring compared to its categorical rejection of Japan. It may also be noted that India and Japan have formed a grouping with Germany and Brazil known as the Group of 4 and are jointly fighting for the UNSC seats. Complicating the China-Japan stand off further, energy hungry Japan, the third largest energy consumer after the US and China, has started drilling for oil and gas around Senkaku Islands in East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China to be their own. This could in time escalate into naval clash unless contained. A creeping confusion even a rift among the G-4 can not be ruled out. To set matters at rest, Wen in a press conference in New Delhi on April 12 clarified that China supported India’s aspirations to play a bigger role in international affairs including the UN.
Sino-Indian Bilateral Trade Ties.
A Joint Study Group (JSG) commissioned by the two governments taking account of a jump of 70 percent in bilateral trade volume noted that from the current volume of $14 billion it has the potential to go up to $30 billion by 2010. It was set as the target. The JSG identified a series of measures related to trade in goods and services, investment and other areas of economic co-operation and recommended their expeditious implementation to remove impediments and facilitate enhanced economic engagement between the two nations. At the Wen-Singh Summit, India and China resolved that an all-round expansion of economic co-operation including trade and investment constituted important dimensions for a stronger India-China relationship. The India-China Joint Economic Group has been asked by the Prime Ministers to start work on the implementation of the recommendations of the JSG. At the Summit a Memorandum of Understanding was also signed launching an India-China Financial Dialogue.
Reeling out statistics to remove doubts from the minds of the detractors – ironically foremost among them being the Indian Communists – of the liberalisation process in India , the Chinese Prime Minister said the major driving force of the Chinese economy was wide-ranging reforms and opening up had transformed the old economy into a market economy. The economy was unshackled unreservedly free from any bottle-necks, giving market forces full play. He said that China could invest in India in biotechnology, computer hardware and telecom hardware. “ There is a lot we can do for mutual investment and co-operation. Chinese Government will encourage trustworthy Chinese enterprises to invest in India”.
out the Guiding Principles for the Settlement of Sino-Indian boundary
The frequency of air connectivity is billed to go up from the present two per week, to 18 this summer to 28 flights per week next winter to 42 flights weekly from the summer of 2006. The changes reflect that China is moving in the direction of open-skies policy with India. It may be of interest to note that India has also signed open-skies agreement last April 2005 with the US and Great Britain.
The Chinese connoisseurs of fine foods will soon be tasting such Indian agro-products like Basmati rice, Alfonso mangoes, bitter gourd and so on for the first time in their lives.
invests $1 billion in the development of Gwadar port in Balochistan,
are the wider implications of Wen’s visit ?
The author is a retired Indian diplomat.