On 13 January, India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official three day visit to China. He met with both President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The Indian leader called engagement with China an “imperative necessity”.
Last October, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi visited China and that visit was believed to be a precursor to the Prime Minister’s visit.
A long-standing mistrust has plagued bilateral relations since they fought a brief border war in 1962 in which China defeated India.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
In recent years, both countries have made concerted efforts to normalise relations for mutual benefit. India’s Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee, searching for economic links, started tours in 1993 and 2003.
The most visible sign of progress is in the area of economic relations. Bilateral trade reportedly exceeded $37 billion last year and is growing at a faster than expected pace.
India’s Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said that: “For us, China is our largest neighbour, a neighbour with whom relations have developed rapidly since 1988 when we addressed the difficult issues and laid out the path for the future development of the relationship”.
What are the imperatives for cooperation?
China and India are the world’s most populous nations and have fast developing economies. Both are emerging new powers on the world scene. Both are nuclear powers. Both are hungry for energy for their breakneck pace of economic growth and have concerns for energy security and climate change. India’s growing consumer market, skilled human resources, and software excellence complement China’s manufacturing capacity and cost effectiveness.
Developments within both countries, such as, population growth combined with environmental degradation, poverty in rural areas, widening disparity within country between rich and poor and the increasingly strident voices of grievances and aspirations of people, pose threats of stability to both countries.
Moreover, on international scene, the differences among major powers so obvious at meetings of the UN Security Council (Kosovo and Iran’s nuclear program) has created a much more fluid situation in the global order. China and India have yet to acquire military profiles commensurate with their wealth. Both are “new kids on the block” in the new world order and need strong relations as they simultaneously enter a global strategic environment unsure of their role.
China and India face a contested border that runs 3,500 kilometres. India argues that China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (14,670 square miles) of its territory, while Beijing claims the whole of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is 90,000 square kilometers.
Both realise that the dispute needs to be resolved peacefully. The two countries expressed their desire that territorial disputes are not to be allowed to affect the positive development of bilateral relations.
There has been steady progress on the boundary talks and the two sides are “determined” to uphold a 1993 frontier peace accord.
During the visit, India signed 12 agreements and MOUs that included cooperation between the two countries in various areas.
The agreements include, among others,
(a) A Shared Vision for the 21st Century
(b) Cooperation between the Planning Commission of India and the National Development and Reform Commission of China
(c) Cooperation between the railway ministries of India and China
(d) Cooperation between the Indian ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation and the Chinese ministry of construction
(e) Cooperation between the between the Indian ministry of rural development and the Chinese ministry of land resources — for cooperation in land resource management, land administration and resettlement and rehabilitation
Both the nations agreed to set a target of $60 billion dollars in bilateral trade in 2010.
On nuclear energy cooperation, India’s Prime Minister said that “India seeks international cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear energy including with China. The rapid growth of India and China will lead to expanding demand for energy. We have no choice but to widen our options for energy availability and develop viable strategies for energy security.”