Sino-Indian ties set to grow
The atmosphere in the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi was quite anti-climatic. Li Keqiang, the new Chinese Prime Minister, was addressing a meeting of Indian...
The outcome of Chinese Premier's one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was already known. And the results were there for all to see; a visible easing of tension with palpable cordiality. Attempts to settle old disputes are subject to severe pressures of public opinion which is conditioned by prejudices; clearly lacking in objectivity that such efforts warrant.
It was clear that the Chinese Prime Minister had precisely understood this challenge. Manmohan Singh himself recognized Li's conscious effort. He remarked, "I sincerely appreciate his reaching out to me on his first day in office and his choosing India as his first foreign destination as Premier."
That the Chinese had prepared well for such a watershed visit was clear from a post-editorial article by Li in one of the leading English dailies; appropriately captioned: 'The handshake across Himalayas'.
Li observed: "Facing the same task of boosting the economy, improving people's living standards and reviving the nation, both countries need a peaceful and tranquil neighbourhood and external environment and wish to achieve win-win results through dialogue and cooperation. India, a strong Asian nation and a major country with global influence, is playing an increasingly important role in international affairs.
"India, a BRICS member with robust economic growth, is playing a significant role for peace and prosperity in South Asia and in the Asia Pacific in general. China is happy to see the growth momentum of India and ready to expand and upgrade Sino-Indian cooperation to the benefit of all-round economic and social development in both countries."
A rare candour marked the engagement between Prime Ministers of two great civilisational neighbours. Echoing Singh was frank: "Premier Li and I have had wide-ranging and candid discussions covering all matters of mutual interest and concern. I am delighted that there are so many areas of convergence between us and on which there is a great deal of meeting of minds. Most importantly, we agreed that the relationship between our two countries is of growing significance and essential for our peaceful development and sustained economic growth�."
And- "India and China are two civilisational neighbours and have lived in peace through the ages. We have had our differences in more recent times, but over the last 25 years, we have steadily built a mutually beneficial relationship. The basis for continued growth and expansion of our ties is peace and tranquility on our borders. While seeking an early resolution of the boundary question, Premier Li and I agreed that this must continue to be preserved.
"We also took stock of lessons learnt from the recent incident in the Western Sector, when existing mechanisms proved their worth."A And, the Premiers agreed that respective Special Representatives will continue to initiate further measures to address maintenance of 'peace and tranquility' along borders for evolving an early agreement 'on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement'.
Reportedly Singh did not mince words in outlining the Indian concerns; firstly, sustaining harmonious bilateral ties with incidents like three-week-long encampment at Depsang. A The second issue raised by the Prime Minister was that of common rivers. That trans-border rivers should not divide but unite was Singh's refrain for expanded dialogue on water. Cooperation should go beyond exchange of hydrological data but ensure sharing of prior information on water use and construction activity.
The third major issue flagged by Singh � lopsided trade flow � found the Chinese Premier at his responsive best. Li appreciated India's willingness to boost trade ties with China, acknowledging that expansion in trade is not possible with such fundamental imbalance.
Li's emphatic response was reflected at the outset of his public address in Delhi; he accepted the Indian concerns. On river water, he recognised the right of lower riparian States. On trade balance, Premier Li recognized that of $ 53 billion of bilateral trade, India's share of exports was only $ 17 billion; he was unambiguous in pointing out that such imbalance cannot sustain dynamic bilateral trade relationship. And, he assured that China would take all 'possible measures' to correct this asymmetry.
Apparently Premier Li had anticipated possible posers by his Indian counterpart; prompting him to observe in his article: "There is no denying that China and India still have between them some difficult issues left over from history. But the rich historical experience and the broad vision, which are common qualities of big countries, serve as the basis for China and India to take a long-term view and live in amity with each other.
With joint efforts in the past few years, the two sides have gradually found a way to maintain peace and tranquility in the disputed border areas, and have learned to deal with the situation in a reasonable and mature manner. Both agree that the common interests between China and India far outweigh their differences and that the two countries should enhance mutual trust rather than increasing mutual suspicion. I believe that as long as we draw on wisdom and strength on our way forward, there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome.
"If China and India live in harmony and prosper together, and if our two markets converge, it will be a true blessing for Asia and the world at large. China's development promises opportunities for India, and India's development promises opportunities for China. Our common development will benefit people of the two countries and offer the world more and better opportunities."
Premier Li raised the notion of 'handshake across the Himalayas' to a higher notch.
It was clear that the Chinese Prime Minister had precisely understood this challenge. Manmohan Singh himself recognized Li's conscious effort