Trade route proposed in India-China conclave

The corridor will boost bilateral trade and tourism

A track II initiative within a sub-regional forum, BCIM (Bangladesh-China–India–Myanmar), has proposed a “growth corridor” between Kolkata in West Bengal and Kunming in Yunnan province of south west China.

The corridor will boost bilateral trade and tourism, while encouraging more people-to-people contact between eastern India and south-western China, the initiative’s joint statement has said. However, West Bengal, where Kolkata is located, has “refused” to send any officials to the recently concluded 10th meeting of the track II initiative, referred as “Kolkata to Kunming” (K2K).

“West Bengal government refused to send any officials and it has surprised many in Kolkata and Kunming,” said Binoda Kumar Mishra, director of Kolkata based Centre for Studies in International Relations and Development (CSIRD), the co-convener of the initiative. Yunnan Development research Centre was the other convener at the Chinese end.

“However, I approached many Ministries in Kolkata so that any one of the officials or public representatives participate in the conclave. But they refused,” regretted Dr. Mishra, who feels the initiative provides an opportunity to showcase a State’s wealth and resources. Kolkata and Kunming have been granted “twin city status” last year and the mayors of the cities are yet to meet.

The Deputy Consul General of China in Kolkata, the Consul General of India in Guangzhou province, retired Indian foreign secretary Krishnan Srinivasan, who resides in Kolkata, however, participated in the two day conclave. A retired IAS officer and MLA from Manipur Y Surchandra Singh, who participated in the conclave, highlighted the need to build the “growth corridor” from Imphal to Kunming via Naypyidaw, the capital city of Myanmar.

“The road from Kunming to Naypyidaw is constructed. If from Imphal to Naypyidaw could be put in place, which India has promised to construct, then it would hugely facilitate movement of goods and people between Kunming and north eastern India, thus chaning lives of the people in the north east,” Mr Singh later told The Hindu.

Impact of trade route

India does not accept K2K as a formal forum of dialogue between the two countries. “It is not a dialogue between two governments. It is a track II within BCIM and not a track II between the two governments and thus we can listen but may not implement its proposals,” said an Indian official.

While no one denies that the opening up of trade route between the two countries would hugely help the people in the north-east, there are serious apprehensions about the route. The main worry for India is the huge trade imbalance. In 2013-14, while China exported goods worth $51,049.01 million to India, it imported goods worth $14,829.31 million, according to data released by Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics in last August. The opening up of the trade route may flood the market more with Chinese product, say Indian officials.

“That is why in some sectors we have imposed preventive measures, as we can not compete with China in many sectors. However, China also has taken many preventive measures to block Indian products,” the former Foreign Secretary, Krishnan Srinivasan told The Hindu. Hence India is in no hurry to connect Kolkata to Kuming by land route.

However, in the joint statement both sides agreed to promote many things including cultural centres and alliance of universities to promote Hindi and Chinese in each other’s country, tourism related to World War II and tea and setting up of industry parks. Five Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between the officials of the initiative of the two countries.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 5:40:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/trade-route-proposed-in-indiachina-conclave/article6654504.ece

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