x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rivals? Not us, say Indian and Chinese leaders

China is India's largest trading partner, but the flow of goods is weighted heavily toward Chinese imports into India.

NEW DELHI // The leaders of India and China called yesterday for a stronger partnership, a huge increase in trade and even the creation of an emergency hotline as they stressed a spirit of co-operation - not competition - between Asia's two rising powers.

The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's three-day trip to India was aimed at building trust and strengthening economic links. It also appeared part of a Chinese effort to blunt America's influence in India.

"A strong partnership between India and China will contribute to long-term peace, stability, prosperity and development in Asia and the world," the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

Little movement appeared to have been made on the key issues of concern to India - opening Chinese markets, resolving a border dispute and pressuring Pakistan to root out anti-Indian militants. But the two sides said they were satisfied simply to deepen their relationship.

"I hope that my visit will help increase our co-operation in a wide range of fields and raise our friendship and co-operation to an even higher level," Mr Wen told reporters after a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace.

At their meeting yesterday, which was their 11th over the past five years, Mr Wen and Mr Singh agreed to work to increase trade between the two countries from $60 billion (Dh220bn) a year to $100bn by 2015, according to a joint communique.

China is India's largest trading partner, but the flow of goods is weighted heavily toward Chinese imports here. The two sides agreed to work to reduce that trade gap, though India failed to persuade China to lift restrictions on the import of Indian software, agricultural products and pharmaceuticals.

They also discussed India's tense relations with Pakistan, a close Chinese ally that Mr Wen will visit after leaving New Delhi today, according to the Indian foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao.

Mr Singh and Mr Wen also agreed to push forward with efforts to peacefully resolve their nations' lingering border disputes - which erupted into a brief war in 1962 - and announced a telephone hotline between the two premiers that was inaugurated several days ago. The leaders also agreed to meet more frequently and to have their foreign ministers meet once a year.

A series of agreements were also signed on banking ties, sharing green technology and media exchanges.

While making public expressions of friendship - Mr Singh accepted Mr Wen's invitation to visit China next year - tensions remain between the two neighbours.

India was annoyed by China's recent refusal to stamp visas in passports of residents of Indian-held Kashmir, a move seen as questioning New Delhi's sovereignty over the region also claimed by Pakistan.

The issue came up at the meeting yesterday. Mr Wen said he took India's concerns seriously and offered to hold consultations on the issue, Mr Rao said.