India’s main opposition wants discussion on trade with Chinese Premier

Monday, 20 May 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

NEW DELHI, India: India’s main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded from the federal Government to take up the issue of trade imbalance during the upcoming visit of Chinese premier Li Keqiang, as the two Asian giants seek to overcome a chequered past. Premier Li arrived in India yesterday, on his first foreign trip since assuming office. He would also visit Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland during the week-long foray.

China and India, despite both being founding members of the BRICS group of developing nations and having increasingly close economic relations, have long looked with suspicion at each other following a brief border war in 1962, which China won. Both countries were involved in a renewed border standoff on the icy Himalayan mountains which calmed down this month after India agreed to a Chinese demand to demolish a remote army position, a topic discussed when India’s foreign minister visited China last week.

A leader of BJP Yashwant Sinha said that India should take up the issue of trade imbalance with China during Li’s visit to New Delhi. “There are many issues that India and China can cooperate globally. A major issue in India-China relation today is a huge trade imbalance, which has developed in our trade with China. And it is almost the double of our total exports to China. So that is a matter of great concern. We should take that up also with the Chinese authorities. But all in all, we should talk to the Chinese Prime Minister from a position of strength and not from a position of weakness. We are a great nation. China recognises that we are a great nation. And we should keep that in mind,” he said.

Chinese foreign ministry said that Premier Li will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Singh and will meet with other Indian leaders during the visit before heading off to traditional friend and India’s nuclear-armed rival Pakistan. China is India’s biggest trading partner and the two countries aim to increase their bilateral trade to US$ 100 billion by 2015. According to the figures released by the Chinese trade ministry, last year the bilateral trade stood at US$ 66.47 billion with India’s trade deficit mounting to US$ 28.87 billion.

The widening trade imbalance skewed in favour of China remains a major worry for Indian policy makers. Another BJP leader from India’s north eastern Arunachal Pradesh state, Kiran Rijiju said that with the passage of time China has softened its stand towards India. “This visit has a historical significance. We have a great opportunity as well. I have written to our Prime Minister that he should take up two issues with the Chinese premier. First they should accept the stapled visa that would be issued by the Chinese to the people of Arunachal Pradesh.

“First China claimed Arunachal as their part and so there was no need for the people of Arunachal to go to China. Now that they have agreed to give stapled visas, then in a way they are accepting that Arunachal is a part of India. There might be differences over the issue, but they are acknowledging it and issuing the visas. So I feel that China has softened its stand,” he said.

Recently both the nations were at loggerheads as Indian and Chinese soldiers faced off 100 metres (330 feet) apart on a plateau near the Karakoram mountain range, where they fought a war 50 years ago, for three weeks until they reached a deal and both sides decided to withdraw. The two countries packed up tents and left the disputed patch on the 5,000-metre-high (16,000-foot) Depsang Plain.

India has been beefing up its military presence for several years on the remote Ladakh plateau, building roads and runways to catch up with Chinese development across the border in a disputed area known as Aksai Chin. Experts would be keenly watching every word and every move that Li makes in India and then his subsequent gestures in Pakistan to gauge the future of Beijing’s relationship with its south Asian neighbours.