Correcting the imbalance in bilateral trade and ensuring foolproof security at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit to be held here this month-end came up for discussion between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Thursday, said government sources.
Foreign Office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin and senior official Gautam Bambawale said the discussions were not on specificity of security arrangements but to ensure that the BRICS summit would be a success by avoiding any untoward incident.
Other sources said Mr. Yang did not mention the Tibetans, who held a protest demonstration to coincide with his visit. But he did observe that anti-Chinese protesters should not be encouraged. Mr. Krishna, in reply, said India did not discourage peaceful demonstrations but felt it was inappropriate for foreign nationals to target another country from its soil.
Chinese fears have been heightened not only because of reports of self-immolation from Tibet its embassy here was among the two breached by the Tibetans in near-simultaneous attempts to enter Chinese missions in several countries in March 2008. The breach led to the famous midnight summons from the Chinese Foreign Office to the then Indian Ambassador in Beijing Nirupama Rao.
Three years ago, Mr. Yang was at the receiving end when a protester hid for three days and unveiled a banner as he arrived at an institute in Bangalore. More recently, China cancelled talks on the border issue after India refused to withdraw permission for the World Buddhist Conference which was to be held here around the same time.
During a conversation between officials of the two delegations, India referred to a security bandobust meeting that was held recently in which representatives of all the five countries took part and assured that there would be more such interactions to brief the participants on the security arrangements to be put in place for the BRICS summit.
According to Mr. Akbaruddin, Mr. Yang acknowledged the huge imbalance in bilateral trade and suggested that Indian entrepreneurs should be more active at trade fairs. In this respect, he expected greater Indian participation at the Boao Forum for Asia to be held next month.
Officials explained that China has been asking India to focus on exportable items — or exports of competitive Indian goods, as Mr. Yang put it — and was taken aback by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma proposing a long list of items during his interaction in Beijing last November. For instance, New Delhi was keen on exporting rice, but Beijing pointed out that “sticky rice” is favoured by its people which is not grown in the Indian mainland. “Mr. Sharma should have a short and focussed list,” they said, while pointing out that there were fears in some quarters, especially the Chinese pharma industry, if its Indian counterparts were given a free run.
Siang river issue
Indian officials firmly rebutted reports about the drying up of the Siang river that originates from China. Local officials in Arunachal Pradesh had claimed this was probably due to diversion by China. Mr. Bambawale said India and China had held several discussions on the subject, including at the Prime Ministers' level, and Beijing was asked not to do anything with respect to trans-border rivers that would hurt the interests of lower riparian countries.