The build-up to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India has begun in earnest. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was in Beijing for consultations and said both nations were poised for an “orbital jump” in ties. The Chinese side reciprocated saying Mr Xi’s visit would be a “very big success” which would boost “political trust” between the neighbours. Both sides will be keen to ensure that Mr Xi’s visit will match the fanfare and deliverables on view during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Japan. Mr Modi appeared at ease with the Chinese president during the BRICS summit in July and New Delhi will turn on the charm to compensate for the prime minister’s oblique references to Chinese expansionism during his Japan visit. Mr Xi is not visiting Pakistan as planned owing to ongoing internal turmoil and thus the summit can proceed without another reminder of the ‘all-weather’ friendship between Islamabad and Beijing.
Economic ties will be a big part of the visit, with a particular focus on Chinese investment in India’s infrastructure projects. The decision to make Ahmedabad the first destination for Mr Xi fits in well with this purpose. It is not uncommon for foreign leaders to address other cities; many head to Mumbai, Bangalore or Hyderabad prior to conducting official talks in New Delhi. This visit is a gesture to a powerful regional capital and there is the added symbolism of Mr Xi arriving on Mr Modi’s birthday, September 17, in a city that is special for the prime minister.
Ahmedabad also makes sense since Gujarat has long sought Chinese investment. Mr Modi visited China four times as a chief minister showcasing Gujarat as a business destination. Those efforts are beginning to bear fruit. An agreement to build an industrial park for the power sector near Ahmedabad is expected to be signed during the visit. A Chinese-built ‘green energy park’ near Vadodara was inaugurated this year. These are only modest beginnings as Chinese FDI in India is worth only $1 billion now. Mr Xi’s visit can, as a Chinese official put it, signal the start of an “another era” in India-China ties.