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The Big Picture – PM Modi’s China Visit: What are the Takeaways?

The Big Picture – PM Modi’s China Visit: What are the Takeaways?



The recent visit to China by the Indian Prime Minister had received a lot of attention and raised lot of hopes about improving the ties between the two countries. Prime Minister of India during the visit had talks and meetings with both President Xi Jinping and prime minister Li. The leaders accepted that the relationship between the countries in the past decade has been complex. However, the joint statement issued after the meeting is an elaborate statement of intent to vastly improve the ties. Crucial issues like border problems and other issues of strategic concerns, skewed bilateral trade among a host of other issues have been addressed. The two countries have also pledged to play a major role in the international affairs.

Leaders from both the countries have called for expanded defence ties, including increasing the number of border personnel meeting points, closer economic cooperation especially on railways, through the setting up of a state leaders’ forum a greater role for states and provinces in ties. Around 24 agreements were signed between the countries. Among 24 agreements was the decision to open a new Indian consulate in Chengdu in Sichuan province — a first in western China in a province bordering Tibet — while China would open its first consulate in south India in Chennai. In their joint statement, the omission of the usual reference to Panchsheel, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence that Jawaharlal Nehru and former leader Zhou Enlai championed came as a surprise to everyone.

During discussion the Indian PM also said that, in the long-term, the partnership between the Countries was not sustainable if Indian industry didn’t get better access to the Chinese market. The joint statement acknowledged that the level of the trade imbalance was not sustainable. It was also made clear that India wants China’s support for a greater role in international institutions. It was specifically highlighted that China’s support for a permanent seat for India at the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and Indian membership of export control regimes would be helpful to the relationship.

There were decisions announced to enhance or institutionalize engagement at the leaders level, as well as between the foreign policy and planning bureaucracies, as well as the defense establishments. There was also mention of shared interests in West Asia and Afghanistan, as well as counterterrorism and climate change—the latter even got a separate joint statement. The main joint statement had an interesting reference to the two countries broadening cooperation in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation—China is not a member, but many believe that it would like to be.

It was also announced that the electronic or e-visa facility would be extended for Chinese tourists, in a possible fillip to boosting so far minuscule tourist inflows. Less than 2 lakh Chinese tourists and businesspeople travel to India annually, out of 100 million Chinese who travel overseas. Resumption of the stalled process to clarify differing perceptions in the undefined Line of Actual Control was also discussed. In the face of spiralling trade deficit, it was decided that India and China will set up a joint task force to look into the trade imbalance and other industrial issues.

However, some experts say that the visit yielded no breakthroughs on the border or on how to bridge the trade gap.