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Asia

Chinese PM visits India

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has begun a two-day visit to India. Both countries are trying to iron out differences over a number of contentious political issues, besides focusing on their growing business ties.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addresses the Indo-China co-operation summit

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addresses the Indo-China co-operation summit

The Chinese premier began his trip to India by paying a visit to Delhi's Tagore International School, where he informally interacted with schoolchildren and told them about Chinese culture, Tai-chi, and calligraphy. The school is among many in India which will start teaching the Chinese language to Indian children from next year.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receives Wen Jiabao in New Delhi

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receives Wen Jiabao in New Delhi

While addressing business leaders, Wen Jiabao rejected the apprehensions about the rivalry between the Chinese "dragon" and the Indian "elephant" in Asia.

"Partners, not rivals"

"China and India are partners for cooperation, not rivals in competition. There is enough space in the world for the development of both India and China," Wen argued. "We have a combined population of 2.5 billion, which accounts for two fifths of the world’s population. Both China and India are in the process of rapid industrialization and urbanization, accompanied by fast and sustained economic growth."

Five years after his first trip to India in April 2005, Premier Wen aims at putting ties between the world's two most populated countries on an even keel, which have been mired in suspicion for the past two years.

India wants Chinese neutrality over Kashmir

His Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh is expected to air India's concerns over the Chinese practice of issuing stapled visas for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. In India, this is seen as Chinese support for Pakistan, because Islamabad traditionally insists that Kashmir is a disputed territory.

Kashmir is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan

Kashmir is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan

Now India wants a commitment from the Chinese leader to end this practice. "I think the tone for this visit is set. It is up to the Chinese to 'unstaple' the situation. I think the core is really going to be this," said Alka Acharya, chairperson of the Centre for East Asian Studies. "It has implications for China’s position on Kashmir, for China’s views about Pakistan’s position and its claims, and so on. The neutrality of the Chinese over Kashmir is very crucial."

Trade talks

The heads of top Chinese firms are accompanying Wen Jiabao. Deals worth around $20 billion in finance, infrastructure, energy, telecom and pharma are likely to be finalized during the visit. These deals are more than the $15 billion worth of contracts unveiled during US President Barack Obama's visit to India last month.

Alka Acharya said trade-related issues, particularly the deficit, will figure prominently in the discussions: "The 400-member business delegation means that the Chinese will finally try to address an issue that has been simmering for the last two years, as the trade deficit has been steadily going against India. This is likely to increase further. Clearly this is going to be the mainstay of the relationship in the immediate foreseeable future, and it is important for the economic fundamentals to stay strong to keep the political fundamentals going."

While India will pitch for greater market access for Indian goods in China, as well as greater Chinese investment in India, it also hopes for an outspoken support from Beijing regarding India's desire to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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