WHEN CHINESE President Hu Jintao arrives in India for a four-day visit Monday evening, it will mark the high point of the ongoing India-China Friendship Year. The first visit by a Chinese President in 10 years is symbolically significant, as it comes at a time when India-China cooperation is at a historic high and the two Asian giants want to assure each other that they are partners and not competitors. However, the distrust that has marked the two countries’ modern history will hardly be absent.
At the top of the President’s agenda will be trade. Bilateral trade is set to cross the $20 billion mark soon, and the two countries are likely to discuss a free trade agreement(FTA) or a regional trade agreement (RTA). However, it is early days yet for such an agreement to be formalised.
Alka Acharya, Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), says an RTA is more likely in the near future. “The negotiations and the institutional arrangements for an FTA will take some time to be put in place. Something along the lines of China joining SAARC is more feasible in the short term,” she adds.
India is likely to bring up the issue of diversification of its exports to China, which currently comprise mainly iron ore and other primary products. China, on its part, will seek liberalisation of visa norms for its businessmen – at present India limits business visas for the Chinese to 320,000 annually.
The other main issue on the agenda is the border dispute –– a reminder that though economic cooperation is increasing, issues of strategic concern have remained unresolved. While the two countries have mostly let sleeping dogs lie, the Chinese ambassador's untimely