Millennium Post

It’s time to set aside differences

It’s time to set aside differences
Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s first visit abroad, beginning on 19 May, is suggestive of the importance that China has attached to India. Li’s India visit takes place in the backdrop of the recent standoff between the two countries in Ladakh over the Line of Actual Control in mid-April, which has cast a shadow over this call-on, though it had been anticipated with keenness. Though the two neighbours have handled the issue deftly and prevented tensions from escalating further, this encounter has again given the border issue a salience in the Sino-Indian relationship which it had somewhat lost with them having earlier placed it on the backburner. Yet, the signals that have come from the new Chinese leadership prior to this military incursion have been extremely positive and have been reciprocated by India. Li’s visit takes place after a successful meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban in March, where the two leaders discussed issues of mutual interest for the first time. Despite the border issue, Premier Li’s visit is thus an opportunity for positive engagement between the two countries and to widen the areas of cooperation even as they work to enhance trust.

Despite the border issues, the emphasis during this visit is likely to be on the economic relationship, with the two sides seeking to recast and expand it. This has been emerging gradually as a sturdy pillar of the general engagement between the two countries, cushioning it from power politics and competitive posturing, and both sides will seek to enhance it. With bilateral trade having surged to over $70 billion, both are keen to scale it up to $100 billion by 2015, which will necessitate greater access to Chinese markets for Indian companies with there being much scope for Indian IT and pharma companies in China.  For its part, China seeks to expand its investments in India and appears to be interested in investing in high-speed railways. India must not waste the opportunity to engage with China, despite areas of distrust, for there is much for India to learn from it. There is, for instance, the population problem, which China has handled with relative success even as India’s population control policies have floundered. India’s population, projected to surpass China’s by 2025, will adversely effect its development, while China continues its rise. There are particularly lessons to learn from China on the economic front, especially in manufacturing, which has fuelled its growth. India’s engagement with the dragon must, therefore, be fruitful and many-sided.
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