A Chinese delegation set to travel to India for talks

Chinese officials said on Tuesday that next week’s Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) in New Delhi would help both countries deepen cooperation on investment and infrastructure projects, with one of the largest-ever delegations of Chinese officials set to travel to India for the November 26 talks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that representatives from Chinese “government agencies, enterprises and financial and research institutions” will travel to New Delhi, with a view to “stepping up communication and coordination of macro-economic policies, and deepening and expanding mutually beneficial cooperation in investment, infrastructure, high technology, energy conservation and environmental protection”.

The delegation will be led by Zhang Ping, who heads the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top planning body. He will chair the talks along with Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. Officials said close to 200 Chinese officials will travel to India, including representatives from the NDRC, Ministry of Commerce, the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Railways and State-run companies.

Rail corridors

At the first round of the SED in Beijing in September 2011, both sides discussed cooperation in railways, which might pave the way for Chinese involvement in India’s plans to set up high speed-rail corridors. Sources said top officials from CNR, one of China’s biggest railway companies that has played a key role in China’s high-speed rail expansion, will travel to New Delhi next week.

Besides railways, separate working groups on infrastructure, energy, environment and high-tech sectors will meet during the November 26 dialogue in New Delhi. Officials said the idea behind the SED was to go beyond trade issues and look at the bigger picture and macro-level cooperation. Trade issues will not be the focus of the SED — a separate Joint Economic Group dialogue headed by Commerce Ministers of both countries discusses bilateral trade issues, officials said. As a new leadership in China takes over, officials here have stressed their desire to expand trade and commercial engagement with India — an issue that found prominence at Monday’s meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Cambodia.

Ms. Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said both leaders had agreed to “seize the opportunities of development” and to “step-up cooperation in infrastructure”. “The Chinese government,” she said, “will continue to encourage reputable Chinese enterprises to invest in Indian projects”.

Chinese officials stress that the leadership transition will not affect ties with India, and that there will be continuity in all areas, whether related to political, military or trade issues.

Government officials who handle foreign policy and trade have not stepped down at the recently concluded National Congress, during which the Communist Party’s top leadership retired.

Officials in government will continue serving until March, when the Parliament meets to appoint new officials. Mr. Wen, the Premier; Mr. Zhang, head of the NDRC; and State Councillor Dai Bingguo, the “Special Representative” on boundary issues, will all continue in office until March.

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