B S Raghavan

Curtain raiser to a new beginning

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 12, 2018

India and China discussed tangible measures to increase economic cooperation.

In many ways, the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Kequiang to India has breathed new life into India-China relations. It also holds ample promise of becoming the harbinger of a new beginning in the relationship, marked by greater cordiality and closeness.

The very language and content of all the various statements emanating from both the Indian and Chinese sides – whether on formal and official occasions, or at public forums, the media meets and the personal interviews – are a strikingly refreshing contrast from the puerile platitudes of the past. They are notable for coming into grips with specifics in a number of areas of great relevance and importance in furthering the economic and geo-political interests of the two countries.

A welcome feature is that they have sought to lay down in a crisp, realistic and practical manner the concrete courses of action to be pursued by the two Governments to harmonise their approaches and policies. On the whole, Li Kequiang and Manmohan Singh deserve to be congratulated for making the visit a memorable milestone in the forward march of two nations which, by virtue of the mantle of ancient civilisations they wear, their size and population, and their geographical location, can together provide the the counterpoise needed for many of the distortions in the international order resulting from the unenlightened self-interest of Western countries.


What is of the utmost significance in this context is the willingness of India and China to join hands and play a more visible, if not assertive, role in the promotion of a multi-polar world and economic globalisation and in the democratisation of international relations, with the Asia-Pacific region as the pivot and the flywheel.

A portion in the joint statement issued after the visit declaring that “As the two largest developing countries in the world, the relationship between India and China transcends bilateral scope and has acquired regional, global and strategic significance,” recognises this imperative. It goes on to say, “Both countries view each other as partners for mutual benefit and not as rivals or competitors.”

Indeed, each of the 35 paragraphs of the statement delineates the tasks necessary to monitor the implementation.

For instance, while affirming the trade turnover target of $100 billion by 2015, the statement also goes into great detail in pointing to the tangible measures to be taken to push up economic cooperation and redress the trade imbalance.

Pharmaceuticals, complementarities in the IT industry, phyto-sanitary safeguards for agricultural products, infrastructure development and project contracts, establishment of industrial zones, meshing, expanding and supporting for mutual benefit the activities of financial regulators and banking institutions – nothing that has any tangible impact on the accelerated development of India and China in consonance with their immense potential has been left out of the discussion of both the Premiers.

It was an inspired idea on the part of the Ministries of Commerce of India and China as also the China International Council for the Promotion of Multinational Corporations and FICCI to hold a meeting of the first India-China CEOs Forum, comprising 20 major companies with a global presence, to coincide with Li’s visit.


It proved an invaluable adjunct to the main event that enabled influential economic players of business, trade, commerce and industry to effectively dovetail their efforts with those of the two Governments in enlarging the scope for trade, eliminating trade and investment barriers, and creating an environment conducive to increased capital flows.

I was particularly impressed by the timely call by the Forum’s Chairman, Anil Ambani, for opportunities for learning the Chinese language in schools and colleges and his vigorous urging of Chinese universities to market themselves in India the way their American, European and Australian counterparts have done.

The biggest disappointment of the visit concerns the one bone of contention that is sure to sour relations on all other fronts. On this, the visit has done nothing more than repeat stale old nostrums. Singh, in his statement, speaks cryptically of the lessons learnt from the recent incident in the Western Sector, but does not mention what those are. Nor does the joint statement, which only asks the Special Representatives of the two countries once again “to push forward the process of negotiations and seek a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement,” elaborate on this.

As of yore, the two sides have agreed “(to) work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in border areas.”The Special Representatives have had 16 rounds of talks with no result. This then requires some out-of-the-box-thinking. Officials merely looking over their shoulders will be incapable of coming up with any thing worthwhile. Only the two Prime Ministers can find a solution to this. And it is high time they did.

Published on May 26, 2013

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