(China): India and China Wednesday agreed to restore
stalled high-level defence exchanges, increase visits by political
leaders and reduce their trade imbalance in steps towards
improving ties that have remained frosty in the past.
The decisions, which also include setting up a consultation
mechanism for border disputes between the two Asian giants who
fought a war in 1962, were taken at a meeting between Indian Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao, National
Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said.
Menon told reporters after the 50-minute meeting in this Chinese
coastal resort that "it has been agreed that a multi-command
Indian Army delegation will be visiting China later this year. We
are also discussing further exchanges and visits in this sector
during the year".
India suspended defence exchanges last year in August, strongly
objecting to China issuing a visa on a loose sheet to Lt. Gen.
B.S. Jaiswal of the army's Northern Command based in Jammu and
This was in continuance of China's 2008 policy to issue stapled
visas to Kashmiris, indicating that it sees the state as disputed
territory and its residents as non-Indians.
Menon denied there was a blanket ban on defence ties.
"We never froze defence exchanges. We have always continued
defence exchanges. For instance, meetings of our commanders, flag
meetings or the border commanders' meeting, all that has gone up."
Asked about stapled visas, Menon said the Chinese "are working to
He said the India and China were poised to enhance bilateral
commerce to $100 billion by 2015, but concerns remain on trade
imbalance in favour of Beijing.
To reduce the deficit, Manmohan Singh asked for more market access
to Indian goods during his "very productive warm, friendly
meeting" with Hu, said Menon.
Menon, who was part of the Indian team in the talks, said the
prime minister did mention about the trade imbalance that rose to
$20 billion in the overall bilateral commerce of nearly $60
billion in 2010. In 2009, this was about $16 billion.
He added that China had agreed to increase imports from India.
"Manmohan Singh mentioned pharma, IT and agriculture as areas
which would conceivably help to reduce the imbalance, if there was
more access. It was not disputed (by the Chinese side). In fact,
President Hu said this was an issue that concerns them and they
look forward to finding solution."
Menon, however, was of the view that recent two-way trade figures
of the two countries had shown a trend favourable for India. "In
the first few months of this year Indian exports to China have
grown much faster than Indian imports from China."
The two sides also agreed in principle to establishing a "working
mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs",
"This will handle important border affairs relating to maintaining
peace and tranquility," Menon said, maintaining that India-China
boundary "is one of the most peaceful borders that we have".
Elaborating on the mechanism, Menon said it would "explore
cooperation in the border areas, and implement the agreements
(signed in 1993 and 1996) that we already have in place to
Manmohan Singh and Hu also accepted each others' invitation to
visit their countries. The dates will be decided later.
The two sides "formally launched the year of India-China exchange
in 2011 where there will be a series of exchanges. This will
include visits by senior political leaders, the holding of the
strategic economic dialogue, which we hope to do as soon as
possible, bilateral official consultations, and people-to-people
contacts", said Menon.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Menon and Indian
ambassador to China S. Jaishankar were part of the Indian team
that met President Hu at Sheraton Beach Resort on the sidelines of
the 3rd BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at email@example.com)