Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh begins China visit

Oct. 23, 2013 at 1:48 AM
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BEIJING, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday began his three-day China visit to discuss the widening trade gap between the two countries.

Singh, who arrived in China after visiting Russia, also is expected to conclude a border pact between the two Asian neighbors.

The Indian leader met with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang Wednesday morning and also was scheduled to meet China's top leader, President Xi Jinping during his China stay.

The two nuclear powers fought a brief border war in 1962, and while their relations have improved considerably since the half century-old incident, the thorny border issues along the Himalayas are yet to be resolved.

During Singh's visit, the two countries were expected to sign the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement designed to set tighter ground rules for their armed forces along the border, China's Global Times reported.

The Hindu newspaper said the pact was not expected to resolve the larger border dispute, but only add to the confidence-building measures in place along the border.

Other irritants in India-China relations include the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has been living in India since the failed Tibetan rebellion in 1959 and whom China has accused of encouraging Tibetan independence. China's close relations with Pakistan, India's traditional adversary, also area a cause for concern for New Delhi.

The main plus in the relations between India and China has been the booming bilateral trade. However, here too, there is concern because of India's soaring deficits.

Two-way trade totaled nearly $66.5 billion last year but India's deficit jumped to $28 billion and the deficit this year is expected to be even more. The two countries want to boost bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015.

"The bilateral economic and trade ties have been the most positive among the two countries' relations," Zhao Gancheng at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times.

He also said the trade deficit, however, disturbs their trade growth. "Increasing China's direct investment in India would be a good solution to cope with the deficit," he said.

India's CNN-IBN television channel reported Singh, accompanied by Li, would address business leaders at the second India-China CEOs Forum being held on the sidelines of the Indian Prime Minister's visit.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has said her country considers Singh's visit is of great importance for deepening the bilateral strategic partnership. Singh's visit comes after Premier Li visited India in May.

In a written interview with the Chinese media, Singh was quoted as saying India faces an unsustainable imbalance in its trade with China and one of the ways of overcoming the trade deficit is for India to attract larger flows of foreign direct investment from China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

On China's proposal to promote the construction of Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, Singh was quoted as saying India is promoting regional connectivity for balanced economic and infrastructure development and accelerating integration with its neighbors, including Southeast Asia.

Singh said to take the idea forward, India and China need to first get the support of Bangladesh and Myanmar and together study the various practical elements of such a corridor.

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