Indian trading firms keen on BRI despite absence of official participation

By Li Xuanmin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/22 19:43:40

A parterre is displayed in downtown Beijing for the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which is to be held from Thursday to Saturday in Beijing. Photo: IC

Despite the absence of India's government at the upcoming second Belt and Road forum, some representatives of Indian trading companies plan to participate in hope of expanding trade with their Chinese peers and boosting bilateral cooperation in infrastructure and other sectors.

"We're looking to deepen our cooperation with new [trading] organizations in China during the forum," Mansoor Nadeem Lari, CEO of the Silk Route Trade and Industry Development Cooperation, told the Global Times on Monday ahead of the opening of the Second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation, which will be held in Beijing from Thursday to Saturday. He attended the First BRF in April 2018. 

The Indian government skipped one of China's most important diplomatic events then, and this year's absence will be the second time India has declined to cooperate with China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - a key artery of the BRI - that passes through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

But some Indian entrepreneurs see the event as a way to do more business and reduce India's trade deficit with China.  

"India needs to export more fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and consumer products" to China, Lari said. For example, he said, India has expertise in products like pharmaceuticals, bio-tech, agriculture and food. "I hope that both countries could work together within the framework to ensure a simplified system for Indian products' entry to China."

Last year, bilateral trade rose 13.2 percent year-on-year to $95.54 billion, and China became India's largest trading partner, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Last year, China's exports to India rose 12.7 percent to $76.71 billion, while imports from India were up 15.2 percent to $18.83 billion.

Under the BRI cooperation mechanism, China could bring resources and expertise in economic and manufacturing growth to countries that are in need, including India and other South Asian nations, industry players said.  

"India needs lot of investment in both physical and digital infrastructure and China has the expertise to work with India on this. There are also chances to foster closer cooperation in the electric vehicle, smartphone and manufacturing sectors," Lari said, while noting China's contribution to India's "Make in India" agenda.

Chinese observers said that the Indian companies' thirst for economic gains associated with the BRI are a signal to the Indian government not to politicize economic initiatives and or let territorial disputes impede mutually beneficial cooperation.

"The Indian government should take a practical approach. Business is business," Long Xingchun, a visiting fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told the Global Times on Monday.

"China and India should strengthen cooperation and maintain a stable and sound development in bilateral relations that took place since meeting between Chinese and Indian leaders in Wuhan," Chinese Foreign spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press briefing on Monday.

India has become one of the biggest beneficiaries of the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) since joining the lender in 2016. AIIB has put more than $200 million into Indian infrastructure development, the Times of India reported.

Indian's neighbors and most South Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal have joined the BRI. They have sent either officials or high-level delegations to this year's BRF, according to media reports.

Newspaper headline: Indian trading firms keen on BRI


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