Rejecting the ‘dragon' vs. ‘elephant' scenario favoured by Western observers, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday told a gathering of top business leaders here that India and China “are partners for cooperation and not rivals in competition.”
As if to underscore that point, Indian and Chinese companies and business institutions proceeded to sign 50 deals worth a staggering $16 billion at a formal function, in Mr. Wen's presence. They surpassed the $10-billion worth of agreements inked during the recent visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The function was organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
Mr. Wen, accompanied by a 400-strong Chinese business delegation, arrived on Wednesday on a three-day visit that both sides hope will put an end to some of the sourness that has crept into bilateral relationship of late.
Determined to show India the human side of the new China, the Premier, who likes to be known back home as “Grandpa Wen,” later interacted with schoolchildren at a south Delhi school, teaching them calligraphy and fielding softball questions. He presented “friendship awards” to nine Indians for their contribution to the deepening of bilateral ties.
“There is enough space in the world for the development of both China and India. There are enough areas for us to cooperate,” Mr. Wen told the gathering of industrialists. He said both Asian economic giants were in the process of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, accompanied by fast and sustainable economic growth, and it was not proper to link China to a “dragon” and India to an “elephant.” “I don't agree with such a view. I don't think business people agree either.”
Addressing the concerns raised by India on various forums about the rising trade deficit, he said China was open to more imports and would try to expand the prospects for Indian exporters. “We will offer more platforms for Indian products in China. Also, by opening markets to each other, we will be most dynamic economies and can support each other in economic development.”
Similarly, as bilateral trade was likely to touch the $60-billion mark, Indian exporters could explore getting access to Chinese markets in such areas as information technology, pharmaceuticals and agriculture and allied products.
The bilateral trade stood at $51 billion last fiscal, up from $15 billion in 2005. But China, India's largest trading partner, is poised to enjoy a trade surplus of $24 billion this year, up from under $1 billion in 2002. India has been pressing China to open up its economy for more exports from here.