Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, will meet his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on a four-day visit to Beijing beginning April 5 to strengthen bilateral ties and resolve border issues. During this visit, Krishna plans to convince the Chinese not to dwell on the past, but rather concentrate on the future. India which has a negative trade balance with China, is seeking to align itself more closely with the larger economic superpower in order to gain economically and at international forums. This will be the first visit by an Indian politician to China in 2010, celebrated as the year of India in China and the year of China in India.
Echoing Krishna’s stand as China as an ally rather than an enemy as seen in the past, Dr S. Jaishankar, Indian ambassador to China reiterated India’s stand of aligning with China in an interview with Global Times. Excerpts –
GT: During your term as ambassador, what do you think will be the biggest challenge in improving India-China relations?
Jaishankar: The biggest challenge to me is that of the mindset. The reason I say it’s mindset is that I think it’s important that everybody takes a strategic view of the relationship. We can’t always remain trapped in the past, and we need to get along with each other. And frankly, we need to be seen to get along. The mindset is not just about the past, but also toward the future. I am not sure if I want to get into talking about the problems in the past. Personally I would rather be focusing on the opportunities in the future.
GT: As the two biggest developing countries in Asia, how could China and India promote cooperation to increase the influence of Asia in international affairs?
Jaishankar: One of the big challenges and opportunities in front of us is, with both countries rising rapidly at the same time, we can use the common interests between us. Take climate change. It is an issue of great concern for both countries. So are trade rules and regulations and the issue of migration. These are the issues that should concern both nations. But in reality, we don’t seem to think about them too much in our relations. We share a long history of common interest in traditional medicine, cultural heritage, and some complex and intangible issues. We should look at those issues as a whole and work together on those things to promote the cooperation between the two countries.
GT: Trade frictions between China and India have also been increasing in recent years, such as the restriction on importing Chinese toys last year. What do you think needs to be done to build a healthy bilateral trade environment?
Jaishankar: In 2008, trade between China and India was US$52 billion. In 2009, despite the global slowdown, the amount was US$54 billion. The first two months of 2010 have been really encouraging, a positive US$9 billion. We can expect a historic high in 2010 if the trend continues.
Our concern is that there is an imbalance there. It is a lack of market access to China for Indian companies. India exports less to China than China does to India. Of course, there cannot be an equal amount with any country in international trade. But in this case, I think Indian companies do not have good enough access to the Chinese market.
We feel that market access in China could improve a lot. We are looking at four areas: IT products, pharmaceuticals, engineering goods and services, and agriculture and meat products. We are working hard to improve the competitiveness of the Indian companies in those four areas.
To read the entire interview please click here.