Xi expected to visit India by year-end

By Jiang Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-6-9 0:33:09

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit India by the end of the year in a show of the importance attached to Sino-Indian relations following the change of regime in New Delhi, which is expected to inject new vitality into bilateral ties.

Analysts believe India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a strong leader, is in an advantaged position to seek a breakthrough in relations together with Chinese leaders, especially in solving long-standing border disputes.

China's foreign minister Wang Yi, who started a two-day visit to India as Xi's special envoy Sunday, was the first top diplomat from a major power to have visited India since Modi's inauguration. He will meet Modi on Monday.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper ahead of his trip, Wang said President Xi is expected to make an official visit to India this year and China holds "great sincerity and resolution" to enhance political mutual trust and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation.

Analysts pointed out that China attached great significance to relations with India as Wang visits India to build contacts with the new regime while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also sent a congratulatory message and held a telephone conversation with Modi shortly after he took office.

During the phone conversation with Li, Modi reportedly invited Xi to visit.

"India is a key factor for territory and sovereignty safety especially for western China. It also needs China's support to guarantee a safer environment for its development," said Long Xingchun, a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

"Against the backdrop of the US rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific, India's choice will to a large extent affect China's situation in the global context," Long told the Global Times, noting China's presence in the region was a major reason for the US and Japan to cozy up to New Delhi.

Upon inauguration, Modi's first foreign trip will be to Bhutan in June, while he is expected to meet with President Xi in July at the BRICS summit in Brazil. The same month he may visit Japan and a trip to the US is also scheduled for September, despite the fact that the US had declined to issue him a visa for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Syed Akbaruddin, India's external affairs ministry spokesperson, told a Friday briefing that India's foreign policy priorities are "in the neighborhood."

"China, Japan and the US are of similar significance to India strategically. India's neighbors are often friendly to China, so it has been under the perception of being encircled by China's friends," said Wang Dehua, director of South Asia Studies at Tongji University in Shanghai.

However, Wang Dehua noted that as two emerging powers, cooperation is "the only option."

Despite a hard-line tone over the Sino-Indian border disputes during Modi's campaign, analysts believe a pragmatic approach will be taken to handle them.

According to Long, this is the first time in more than 30 years of Indian history that the country has seen a strong government and a strong leader, as a result of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s sweeping victory.

"The BJP does not have a historical burden on Sino-Indian border disputes," said Long. "At the same time, China sees its leadership as strong as well, which creates a historical opportunity for the two sides to solve the disputes."

In addition to a breakthrough on the border issue, economic cooperation is widely expected to be a key area for Beijing and New Delhi to work together, as Modi is seen as a pro-business leader and has made four visits to China to woo investors.

"China and India, one being a global manufacturer and the other a major service provider, may complement each other well. Chinese enterprises, with their rich experience in infrastructure development and manufacturing, can contribute to India's development," Wang Yi told The Hindu, adding China stands by India's side throughout its efforts of reform and development.

India is keen to narrow the vast trade deficit of $31 billion, even as the two countries close in on their goal of $100 billion in bilateral trade by 2015.

Meanwhile, authorities on both sides are negotiating relevant agreements on setting up development zones in India. A delegation to India has been sent for inspection of the prospective sites and some Chinese businesses have already begun construction on the ground.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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