India touches base with future China PM, maps future ties (Roundup)

June 6th, 2012 - 9:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 6 (IANS) Against the backdrop of the impending leadership transition in Beijing, India and China Wednesday voiced hope that the upswing in bilateral relations will continue under the new dispensation as New Delhi sought greater Chinese investment in infrastructure.

India also sought the support of China for membership of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), dominated by Beijing and Moscow, and underlined that it will bring many strengths and positives into the grouping.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Wednesday held wide-ranging talks with China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is expected to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao later this year, and focused on taking “a peep into the future” of this critical bilateral relationship.

Krishna and Li met in the Great Hall of the People on the sidelines of the SCO summit. “The primary focus of our discussions was the future of our bilateral relationship. India attaches utmost importance and high priority to developing cooperative partnership with China,” Krishna told Indian journalists in the Chinese capital after the talks. “We have a strong relationship with this country. It is the desire of the government of India and the people of India to strengthen this relationship and make bonds stronger,” he said.

Describing Li as one of the most important people in China in deciding the country’s economic destiny, Krishna said the Chinese vice-premier shared his vision of the India-China relationship and the future of the relationship over the next decade. “It was a peep into the future,” said Krishna. Krishna also invited Li to India, who last came to New Delhi in 1985 as a youth Communist activist.

“I am confident that the upward trajectory in the India-China relationship will continue over the next decade,” said Krishna.

“It is an opportunity to enhance cooperation under the SCO but also bilaterally,” Li, a lawyer who is known to be among the more liberal Communist Party leaders in China, said. The meeting between Krishna and Li marks a series of engagements for India to get an insight into the thinking of the next generation of Chinese leadership which will take charge after a leadership succession later this year.

Li is expected to carry forward the upswing in bilateral ties witnessed during the tenure of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen. In January 2013, Hu will make way for Xi Jinping, China’s current vice-president, and Li will succeed Wen.

In his discussions, Krishna described the growing bilateral trade and investment as a key driver of the relationship and made a pitch for attracting more Chinese investment in India’s burgeoning infrastructure sector. Alluding to India’s burgeoning infrastructure sector which will require at least a trillion dollars in investments, Krishna said he conveyed that India was “creating a level playing field and observing transparency in international bidding”.

However, he voiced concern over the growing trade deficit with China. Bilateral trade is now estimated to be $74 billion and India’s trade deficit in calculated to be $27 billion. Li assured that the Chinese government was encouraging Chinese investment in India, specially in the infrastructure sector.

On the SCO, where India is currently an observer, Krishna said during his talks with Li he conveyed India’s desire to become a full-fledged member of the SCO. “It was heartening to hear that the modalities of admitting new members is being worked out. The process is on,” he said. “And when India comes into a grouping or association, it brings with it many positives and strengths. That will have to be evaluated.”

Krishna’s talks with Li was more in the nature of big-picture assessment of the bilateral relationship, but more specific issues impinging ties will be discussed Thursday when he meets his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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