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China, India ties shift to high gear

Faisal Kidwai
Updated: Aug 6,2014 11:55 AM     China Daily

The engine driving Sino-India ties has been turbo-charged recently and the neighbors, once wary of even talking to each other, are now discussing multibillion-dollar deals, working together for Asian prosperity and transforming their relationship, India’s ambassador to China said.

Ashok Kantha, whose association with China began nearly 35 years ago, said in an interview with China Daily that there has been a complete makeover in Sino-India ties.

In 1981, Kantha came to China after studying Chinese at Nanyang University in Singapore.

This period ushered in several highlevel social and cultural delegations meeting their Chinese counterparts, but ties have really taken off recently.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited China four times before winning the general election by a landslide in May, and Premier Li Keqiang was the first foreign leader Modi spoke to after his swearing-in. Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited New Delhi in June, and Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari was in China last month.

There is a keenness not only to forge mutually beneficial ties but also to see that India and China work as catalytic agents in the process of Asian global prosperity, Kantha said.

“This is a message that came across clearly after Modi’s meeting with President Xi Jinping in Brazil in July, and we are looking forward to the Chinese president’s visit to India later this year. As the Indian prime minister conveyed during the talks in Brazil, we would like an enhanced agenda of strategic partnership to emerge out of this trip. Xi has invited Modi to visit China, an invitation the prime minister has already accepted,” the ambassador said.

One basic principle that needs to be highlighted in terms of our expectations from each other is to see that we respect each other’s aspirations and concerns, Kantha said.

The trade imbalance is a problem and India is seeking more access to the market in China, which is its biggest trading partner. In 2013, bilateral trade was about $65 billion, but the annual trade deficit for the past three years has been around $35 billion.

Indian pharmaceutical companies are known for producing generic drugs at competitive prices but, according to Kantha, many Indian firms in China said the process of product registration is extremely difficult.

Information technology is another sector where India has a formidable reputation.

There are many Indian tech companies, such as TCS, Wipro and Infosys, operating in China, but they face difficulties breaking into the market due to certain regulatory problems, the ambassador said.

“Two-way investment flows should be encouraged. Total Chinese direct investment in India was just over $1 billion, while its total outward investment last year was in excess of $90 billion. India’s investment was just above $500 million.”

There is also a focus on people-to-people exchanges.

More than 97 million Chinese people made overseas trips in 2013, but only 150,000 went to India. To encourage more tourism and business trips from China, India has started providing tourist and business visas in just two working days.

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