Chinese state-run companies are ‘not blocking’ Indian IT

India and China, on Tuesday, signed a memorandum of understanding on IT cooperation, which, officials said, was a ‘formal recognition’ from the Chinese government to promote Indian software companies, which have largely struggled to obtain contracts from Chinese state-run companies. Both countries held their third Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) here on Tuesday.

Yang Xueshan, Vice Minister in the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and one of China’s senior-most officials in charge of IT policy, told The Hindu in an interview on the sidelines of Tuesday’s talks that contrary to Indian perceptions, Chinese state-run companies were ‘not blocking’ Indian IT. He pointed to the success of other foreign software companies in obtaining contracts. Tata Consultancy Services has been the exception in obtaining a number of contracts from state-run banks and local governments.

“We do not pose any impediments for Indian software companies in entering into cooperation with SOEs,” Mr. Yang said. Mr. Ahluwalia said the MoU was “essentially a formal recognition [from China] that we want to promote Indian IT'.’’ companies.

India also sought Chinese support in substantially raising the speed on three rail corridors and in developing modern stations.

China has rapidly modernised its rail network, which only three decades ago lagged behind India’s. Today, express trains run at 200 to 250 kilometres per hour, up from 110 kilometres per hour, while the government has revamped stations to build a network of modern, airport terminal-like rail hubs. The country has also built the world’s biggest high-speed rail network, where trains run at 350 kilometres per hour on 13,000 kilometres of newly-laid track, running entirely separately from the older rail network. India has sought assistance in raising speeds on three lines, between New Delhi and Agra, Kanpur and Chandigarh. Chinese rail officials said they could help raise speeds from the current 130 kilometres per hour to 160 or even 200 kilometres per hour.

“This will require realignment of the track and strengthening bridges,” said Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. “The Chinese also have a lot of expertise on heavy haul, where they are pushing a lot more per train.”

Arunendra Kumar, Chairman of the Railway Board, told The Hindu cooperation with China on high-speed rail, which would involve building an entirely new network, was for now off the cards. “You would need a lot of land and money,” he said. “This would cost Rs.120 crore per kilometre, but it costs a lot less to raise the speed on existing tracks.”

India has, however, asked Japan for assistance in carrying out a project report considering the possibility of building a high speed rail line between Mumbai and Vadodara. At the SED, both sides signed an MoU to push IT cooperation. India has asked China to expand market access for software and pharmaceutical companies, and to take steps to narrow the record $35 billion trade deficit, which, Mr. Ahluwalia said, was ‘not sustainable’.

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