By Nanditha Sankar:
“I hope my current visit is the one to carry on the past and open a way for future, which will further enhance our win-win cooperation” said Wen Jiabao, the former Chinese Premier on his visit to India in December 2010. Four eventful years after his visit which saw much happening between the two countries in heightened tension, the current President of China, Xi Jinping has arrived on a 3-day visit to India. Both sides seem to have high expectations from the visit. PM Modi called it the commencement of a “Millenium of Exceptional Synergy”. And the President, in an article said, “With the new government coming into office, a new wave of reform and development has been sweeping across India, greatly boosting the confidence of the Indian people and attracting keen international interest in its opportunities.”
This visit marks several firsts in the Indian visit of a foreign leader. Digressing from established norms in welcoming a foreign leader, PM Modi chose Ahmedabad, over the national capital. This is also the first time that a Chinese leader was given a civic reception. Keeping aside the many firsts that have surfaced ever since the President’s visit, one must keep in mind that this comes in between PM Modi’s visit to Japan, and the United States trip that is scheduled later in the year. The new Indian Government is set to strike new ties with each of these countries which had a different bond with the previous government led by the UPA under the leadership of Dr.Manmohan Singh.
This visit is touted to have its impact across wide-ranging aspects, from cross-border infiltration to bilateral trade. This is only corroborated by the fact that nearly thousands of Chinese troops who had made incursions into the Chumar region in J & K seem to have pulled back in the wake of PM Modi’s clear mandate that Chinese infiltrators across all Indian territories should make their way out. It must be noted that border transgressions featured high on PM Modi’s agenda, considering how it was the first issue to be raised, pushing back trade and economic matters to a close second.
The ongoing visit seems to have brought a bagful of goodies to India. The Chinese President extended full support of his country towards India’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a central Asia security grouping of 6 countries with Russia and China at the helm of affairs.
India currently has an observer status at the SCO. The SCO is expected to play a major role in combating religious extremism and internet terrorism across the world. This being a prominent issues in India, its entry as a formal member into the SCO should be seen as a positive step. The country could also collaborate with fellow SCO members and gain valuable insight into their measures in the fight against similar issues.
The President’s arrival seems poised to foster India-China bilateral trade. With this bilateral relationship becoming one of the most dynamic international relations of present times, it is only fitting that China should emerge as India’s biggest trading partner. To cement this further, both countries have signed a Five Year agreement in trade and academic co-operation. Over 16 agreements and MoU’s have been signed with a proposed 20 billion dollar investment strategy by China in India. In a move that could help reduce India’s trade deficit with China, which amounts to a significant number, the Chinese President also announced that two industrial parks would be set up in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
What does all this mean for India and China?
Firstly, the results are visible even before the visit ends. Some troops have withdrawn and within due course of time, further progress will follow. Cross-border incursion could come down significantly, atleast in the immediate future. The tie-ups between Indian names and Chinese firms could create a healthy atmosphere for foreign investment and attract more cash flow into the country. The Chinese have also offered to help revive the Indian Railways from its misery. Ahmedabad and Guangzhou are set to enter into a partnership in matters of environment and health. The picture seems promising atleast from the veneer. India seems to position itself in a strategically balanced front by reaching out to several world powers at the same time. The future of India-China relationship depends on the sustainability of these measures laid out on a grand scale. Going back to cross-border infiltration after exchanging pleasantries is one thing the Chinese should stay away from. The great poet, Tagore, hoped for an hour when the East would arrive in full glory and revive its rich past which seemed to have been taken over by the West. The first step towards this would be the forging of strong ties between India and China. In the words of Xi Jinping, “As long as China and India work together, the Asian century of prosperity and renewal will surely arrive at an early date.”