Published : May 06, 2005 00:00 IST

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit marks a high point in India-China relations as the two Asian giants agree to upgrade their relationship to a strategic and cooperative partnership.


THE Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao's three-day visit to India in the second week of April, has been widely hailed as a significant one. The Indian foreign secretary, Shyam Saran , chose to describe the visit as an "extremely successful one that would produce far reaching results". The results of the visit, he said, would soon draw the "attention of the world. Sino-Indian friendship was important for Asia and the world". The delegation led by the Chinese Prime Minister also presented the Indian government with the newly printed official map, which shows the state of Sikkim as part of the Indian Union. Sikkim now formally ceases to be a cause for friction between the two countries. New Delhi on its part had had before the Chinese leader's visitthat the Tibetan Autonomous Region is part of territory of China. During Wen's visit, had stressed on many occasions during his visit that India and China "are partners, not rivals". He emphasised on many occasions during his visit that a "strong and prosperous India serves China's interests".

The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh told the media after the signing of the agreement for "strategic peace and prosperity" that India and China can together "reshape the world order". such as A says:Shyam Saran said that the new relationship between the two countries has "global and strategic dimensions"he . Both China and India have been critical of American unilateralism in global affairs. The two countries are also interested in promoting the peaceful use of outer space and are against the weaponization of outer space. The Congress led UPA government, unlike its predecessor, has not endorsed the Bush administration's "missile defence" program, The program, which in Asia has the support of Japan and Taiwan, is aimed mainly against China If the US administration is allowed to succeed in its game plan of weaponising outer space. It would deny countries like India and China the peaceful use of outer space while triggering an arms race in the new frontier.

Immediately after the Chinese Premier's visit, the Indian External Affairs minister, K. Natwar Singh went to Washington, where he had high-level discussions with the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and a meeting with President George W. Bush. The Japanese are also no doubt keeping a close watch on the developments on the Sino-Indian front. Washington is tacitly backing Tokyo in the ongoing efforts to thwart what many see as the inevitable emergence of China as a superpower.

Wen told the media in Delhi that "trilateral cooperation between Russia, India and China would help democratise international relations and contribute positively to world peace and security".. INDIA and China also agreed on the "modalities" to implement confidence-building measures (s) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question noted that the "two sides are seeking a political settlement of the boundary question in the context of their overall and long-term interests". The agreement expressed the hope that for an early settlement of the issue. "Convinced that an early settlement of the boundary question will advance the basic interests of the two countries and therefore should be pursued as a strategic objective", the agreement stated.

""Both sides should, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments to their respective positions on the boundary question, so as to arrive at a package settlement to the boundary question. The boundary settlement must be final, covering all sectors of the India-China boundary". The agreement also specifically mentioned that while reaching a boundary settlement "the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas".

Observers of the South Asian scene do not expect any imminent break through on the border question but it is clear from recent statements and actions, that the two sides would not let this be an encumbrance in their burgeoning relationship any longer. The Indian Army has said that the new protocols for military cbm's along the LAC would make conditions favourable for a further reduction of troops on the border. Under a new protocol signed by the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers, both the armies will hold two additional border meetings every year in the western, middle and eastern sectors. Under the new protocol, in the event of a "face to face situations" due to differences on the alignment of the LAC, forces on both sides will immediately return to their bases. The problem will be referred to headquarters and resolved diplomatically.

The other important agreement was on trade, with the two sides agreeing to boost bilateral trade, too $20 billion by 2008. Currently it stands at $13.7 billion19is on alarger scale. The Chinese Premier had observed the "complementarities" of the two economies. He had said in Bangalore that with India's expertise in software and the Chinese mastery over hardware, together the two countries could make great strides. The Indian foreign secretary mentioned biotechnology, nanotechnology and space as some of the areas in which the two countries could cooperate. The target of a $20 billion turnover in bilateral trade is considered a modest one, by many analysts. $13.6 billion, the bilateral trade between the two countries in 2004, is only one per cent of China's global trade and nine per cent of India's They point out that China's trade with countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, is already much more and is expected to grow even faster in the coming years.

New Delhi seems to be a little wary of creating a free trade zone between the two nations. Indian industry gives the impression of being overawed by the competition from China, at this juncture. A "Report of India-China Joint Study Group on Comprehensive Trade and Economic Cooperation" (JSG), jointly prepared by the Indian And Chinese Commerce Ministries, stressed on the need to take further "comprehensive measures" to expand trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. The JSG Report also talks about the benefits of a regional trading arrangement between India and China. Since the Doha Round of the WTO talks, the two countries have been coordinating their negotiating positions on agriculture, intellectual property rights, investment and related issues.

After the Wen visit, India and China have signalled that they intent to cooperate more closely in the international energy sector. A small beginning has been made in Sudan where Indian, Chinese and Malaysian companies have picked up a joint stake in a big petroleum venture. The energy ministers of the two countries have appointed a joint task force to work out the details for cooperation. The leadership of the two countries have indicated that they will take up joint projects in the hydrocarbon sector in Central Asia. There is a proposal from the Indian side to have China as an end user for gas from Iran and Central Asia. Both Turkmenistan and Iran want to build gas pipelines to India. These pipelines could be extended to China through Myanmar.

said that a decision regarding the granting China "observer status" in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) would be taken up in the next summit of the regional grouping. Many of the member states have been lobbying for China's eventual inclusion in the organisation. India, on its part, wants to be involved in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. India has applied for observer status in the grouping, which consists of China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. The foreign secretary said that the criteria to be adopted for increasing the membership of SAARC, is erebeing drawn out. He however emphasised that both countries had expressed support for each other in regional groupings like the ASEAN. "There is enough space for both the countries in the region", said Saran. Wen said that China welcomed India's relations with regional groupings. Wen also took the opportunity to once again state that the nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan was only for peaceful purposes and in "complete compliance" with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to IAEA safeguards.

The Chinese Premier did not categorically categorically support India's candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The Chinese Prime Minster instead indicated that India would be welcomed as an "important player" in the United Nations. "India hopes to play an important role in the UN and we extend our support", Wen said in his speech to the IIT students. It was evident that China was not willing to give a firm commitment about backing India for a permanent seat in an expanded UN security council. The previous BJP led Indian government had chosen to launch a joint campaign with Japan, Germany and Brazil for a Security Councilseat at the UN high table. The UPA government too continues with the joint international lobbying efforts.

Beijing has been at loggerheads with the right wing Japanese government led by Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi. Recent actions of the Japanese government have further exacerbated tensions between Beijing and Tokyo. The new school textbooks approved by the Japanese government gloss over the atrocities committed by the Japanese occupation forces in China during World War 11. There is also a move by the Koizumi government to alter radically the Japanese Peace Constitution. Beijing fears that Japan may go nuclear, and with American encouragement, open a new front against China. The recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in the major cities of China are manifestations of the deeply felt anger against what many people in Chinese consider as resurgent Japanese militarism. Wen Jiabao said in Delhi that Japan had to "face up to history". Japan, he said, had inflicted huge suffering on the people of Asia during their "war of aggression" in the last century.

All the major political parties in India hailed the visit of the Chinese Prime Minster as a success. "The visit has resulted in upgrading relations between India and China to the status of a strategic and cooperative partnership", the Communist Party of India said in a statement. The CPI(M) Politbureau emphasised that a significant outcome of the visit was the agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the boundary question between the two countries. Wen The Chinese Prime Minister had hailed the agreement on the border dispute as "the very first political guiding document signed since the resumption of negotiations" in the late eighties between the two countries. "This is a sign that we have brought our boundary negotiations to a new stage", the Chinese Prime Minister said before departing for Beijing.

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