China’s president Xi Jinping visited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his home turf to strengthen bilateral relations and augment trade and investments between the two countries. While the ensuing border dispute was on the agenda, simultaneous incursions, and nonchalance by visiting Chinese delegations both before and after the Presidents visit numbed down the issue for India.
The border wasn’t the only moot point between the neighbours, strangely just a week before President Xi’s visit, the Chinese Ambassador to India, was suddenly and unceremoniously asked to return home. While the readjustment within the cadre has sent diplomatic rumour mills on fire, it did stoke nerves of distrust amongst the sweet and sour neighbours.
Nonetheless, on the outset, China – India relations blossomed. The two nations signed 16 agreements in Delhi (for the full list click here), one of which will see China investing US$20 billion (£12.2billion) in India’s infrastructure over five years. Landmark agreements were also signed to realign India’s railway system on modern lines and build atleast two Special Economic Zones exclusively for Chinese companies to manufacture and export from. Other deals were also signed in the pharmaceuticals and farm products space as well as increasing co-operation in trade, space exploration and civil nuclear energy. Softer issues were also touched upon and signals were given for boosting language and cultural ties between the people.
During his one and a half day visit, Xi visited Modi’s home state of Gujarat before spending a day in New Delhi, India’s capital where he met Ms. Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister and Mr. Arunendra Kumar, Chairman, Railway Board amongst others.
The meeting took place just a few days after Prime Minister Modi visited Shinzo Abe in Japan who too promised India equivalent investments. In the run up to a growing dispute between China and Japan, India which is diplomatically closer to Japan created an aura of competition between the East Asian giants to which China responded by saying their investments announced during Xi’s visit will be higher than those promised by Abe.
While tensions rose between neighbours, China’s media unlike India’s played down Xi’s visit. Reported as just a leg in the President’s South Asia tour, India was just another country he visited en route home. President Xi visited the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, scrapping Pakistan during the tour due to domestic tensions.
All in all, the visit was viewed by both nations as a cursory stop over to maintain bilateral relations. Neither side announced blockbuster deals nor was there much fanfare surrounding the visit, it didn’t take India China relations to the next level nor did it make big promises. However silence always follows a storm and exerts in the region believe that the India China story is yet to unfold her true colours for this century.