Fri, December 17, 2010
China > China & World > Premier Wen visits India, Pakistan

Sensitive issues wisely avoided on Wen's India visit

2010-12-17 06:30:51 GMT2010-12-17 14:30:51 (Beijing Time)  Global Times

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India, which finishes today, makes him the first Chinese premier to visit India more than once in the same role, following on from then Premier Zhou Enlai's groundbreaking visit in 1954.

In the context of high-level visits between the leaders of the two countries, Wen's April 2005 visit to India is still fresh in people's minds. India was on the last leg of his trip to four South Asian nations but it was the most important and most successful one.

Wen established a strong rapport with the Indian leadership then and, as the Indian leadership remains largely the same, it will be easier for Wen to further consolidate the bilateral relationship on the basis of the sound foundation laid in 2005.

This is only Wen's second visit to India, but he is meeting Indian PM Manmohan Singh for the 11th time. The last time they met each other was in October during the 17th ASEAN summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. Both leaders had very fruitful talks then and were evidently comfortable dealing with each other.

Wen's first visit to India as premier was oriented around Sino-Indian cultural and political exchanges, but this visit has been more about boosting Sino-Indian economic and trade relations.

Sino-Indian trade will reach $60 billion this year, but there is still huge untapped potential.

The balance of trade is highly in favour of China. Most of the Indian exports to China are raw materials and basic products, and Indian businessmen are looking to diversify trade and increase the volume of exports.

During the previous visit, Wen signed an agreement for resolving border dispute, which was described by the then National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan as "one of the most significant documents signed between the two countries."

Border issues remain contentious between the two nations, and won't be resolved with the signing of a few documents. Still, the 14th round of negotiation between the special representatives of both sides was held last month and some concrete outcomes were made during these talks.

Wen's visit closely follows Indian tours by US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who both extended their full support for India receiving a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, as did British PM David Cameron.

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev is set to visit India on December 21-22, and may also support India's claim. This leaves only China among the current permanent members. Indian leaders have been sounding Wen out on this. On his previous visit, Wen said "China supports a bigger role of India in the UN."

China will also be looking to boost its ties with India in the IT sector. In 2005, Wen said that "China-India collaboration in the IT sector will herald a new 'Asian Century' in IT."

Chinese telecom giant Huawei announced on Wednesday that it will invest $2 billion over the next five years in building R&D and manufacturing centers in India.

As Singh has said, the world is large enough to accommodate the ambitions of both countries.

But we also need to have accommodating minds. We must be careful not to rub salt into the wound when it comes to sensitive issues such as the border dispute and the Chinese government's reluctance to stamp visas into the passports of Kashmir residents.

This last practice will hopefully end soon after Wen's visits, but India shouldn't, as some have suggested, respond in a tit-for-tat fashion by doing the same to residents of China's Tibetan Autonomous Region. This would only reverse the solid progress both countries have made in the last two years, when instead both sides could be working for mutual benefit.

The author is course director of the Chinese Stream at the University of Bath, UK. forum@globaltimes.com.cn

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