Starting Wednesday, India and China have begun a series of five high-level consultations, to be held over the next five days, on issues ranging from trade and finance to the boundary dispute, with the aim of laying the groundwork for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s expected visit to China next month.
On Wednesday, working group meetings under the framework of the annual Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) met here to begin three days of talks. Officials said the meetings would look to follow up on agreements reached between the two sides at last year’s dialogue, and prepare for the third round of the SED scheduled to be held in China later this year. The SED includes working groups on policy coordination, infrastructure, energy, environmental protection and high-technology.
On Friday, a delegation from the Commerce Ministry, led by Joint Secretary Asit Tripathi, will hold talks on trade statistical analysis with the Chinese Commerce Ministry, against the backdrop of a widening trade imbalance between both countries. Separately, Arvind Mayaram, Secretary Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, will meet with Chinese Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao, over on-going finance consultations.
While the talks are part of regular dialogue mechanisms set up by the two sides, officials said the current round of consultations took on special emphasis as both sides are looking to tie-up agreements to be announced when the Prime Minister visits China.
Besides the consultations on trade and economic issues, the two sides will, on Sunday, discuss the recent boundary tensions when their working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs meets. Both sides are currently in talks over a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, likely to be announced formally when Dr. Singh is in Beijing, which will consolidate and strengthen confidence-building measures along the border. Finally, on Monday, officials of the two foreign ministries will meet for regular foreign office consultations, looking at the overall relationship.
The website of the People’s Daily , the Communist Party’s official newspaper, noted in an article on Wednesday that Dr. Singh’s visit, which follows the visit of the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi in May, will mark the first instance of back-to-back visits by leaders of two countries in the same year since 1954.
The newspaper quoted External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who recently gave an interview to Chinese reporters in New Delhi, as saying Dr. Singh had made “a personal investment” in improving ties.
The Global Times , a tabloid published by the People’s Daily known for its hawkish views, said Mr. Khurshid had expressed concerns over some aspects of China’s relations with Pakistan.
“There are very strong fundamentals that provide a base for building sustainable relationship between India and China,” he was quoted as saying.
“Having said all this, there will be periodic issues of divergence. China has a very important relationship with Pakistan ... Our concern in China’s relationship with Pakistan is about the impact on nuclear non-proliferation. Perhaps the other concern is the extent to which your collaboration and help to them is concentrated in the area that we believe they have occupied forcibly.”
On the boundary issue, he said the Special Representatives’ talks and other mechanisms were “moving steadily”, but both sides “decided not to push the pace so that it gives way, rather than continuing to make progress.”