India, China on road to better ties


Regular Member
Jul 21, 2009
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NEW DELHI: India's relations with the US are drifting, ties with Pakistan going steadily downhill, but on the eastern front India and China are doing surprisingly well.

In a few days, the Chinese government will allow 21 Indians in Chinese prisons to meet their families. China has charged these 21 Indians with smuggling and money-laundering on February 10. But in an almost unprecedented gesture, they are being allowed to meet their loved ones. China is not known for such gestures; even their most celebrated dissident prisoner at present, Gao Zhisheng, is not allowed to meet his family.

As foreign minister S M Krishna heads to Beijing to kick off the 60th anniversary celebrations of diplomatic relations between the two countrues next week, his visit will punch all the right buttons, and a lot of goodwill will flow across the Himalayas. But Krishna won't have to try too hard.

Because after a period of sullen silence, India and China are talking again. In January, the defence secretary went across for a defence dialogue, the first; in February commerce minister Anand Sharma restarted an economic dialogue after four years, where India pushed China on market access. Foreign office consultations started in February after two and a half years and last week, the two sides sat down to sort out visa issues with each other.

In April, experts from both sides will talk trans-border rivers. For India that's very big, given its concerns on the Chinese diverting the Brahmaputra. National security adviser Shivshankar Menon has been designated the special representative for boundary talks, and he will lead the next round in late summer.

Even trade figures are encouraging. India's biggest grouse with China recently has been non-tariff barriers that leaves the trade balance dangerously skewed. But in January-February 2010, Chinese Customs reported a jump in bilateral trade by 55% from the same period last year. Most important, out of the $8.98 billion total, Indian exports were worth $3.49 billion, a 75% hike from 2009.

After the battering on stapled visas for Kashmiris, none for Arunachalis, harsh words on border incursions that marked most of the past couple of years, temperatures have cooled between the two countries. They have been helped by the unusual cooperation during the Copenhagen climate summit where India held China's hand as it faced off international pressure on carbon emissions caps.

Moreover, if 2009 was the year of the American 'kowtow' to China, 2010 is building up as the year when things look particularly dire between China and US. Similarly, for a whole lot of reasons emanating from Pakistan, India's relations with the US are gritty.

India and China are not turning to each other on the rebound, but there appears to be greater understanding.

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