India is looking at China to make announcements about large-scale investments during President Xi Jinping’s expectedly high-profile visit to New Delhi later this month, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman indicated on Tuesday.
Without spelling out specifics, Sitharaman said both countries were working hard to make Xi’s visit a “success, a good success”.
And, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Japan trip, where, besides having warm exchanges with the country’s leadership, he extracted hard promises of investment over $35 billion, a successful trip for the Chinese president could probably mean assurances of substantial investment.
But of course, money will not be the only commodity to be exchanged during Xi’s visit as the two countries continue to grapple with issues – the long-festering border dispute topping the list of acrimony.
“When President Xi visits India, you can expect a sense of camaraderie and a sense of friendship – a complete change in the way the two neighbours have engaged till now,” she said.
Sitharaman was speaking to Beijing-based Indian reporters after a meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Gao Hucheng, on Tuesday. She was in Beijing for a round of India China Joint Economic Group meeting.
“As the talks went, there was lot of interest and lot of keenness (to make the visit a success)…they want to make Xi’s visit a success, a high-profile one,” she said.
“They want a good profile (for the visit)…good announcements…(they are) on the same page as we are.”
A take-off point could be a concrete announcement about setting up – to begin with – one industrial park with Chinese investment. A bilateral agreement on industrial parks was signed during vice-president Hamid Ansari’s visit China visit in June.
A Chinese team of experts recently visited Gujarat and Maharashtra among other states to look for a suitable location to set up an industrial park.
China could also invest in modernising India’s aging railway infrastructure and setting up high-speed railways, Sitharaman said.
She said discussions were positive and the tone of the talks could “only result in tangible outcomes”.
From India’s point of view, “tangible outcomes” are an urgent necessity to address issues in the bilateral trade – especially how to tackle the mounting trade deficit currently around $35 billion per annum.
In the first three months of this year, the trade deficit was around $8.84 billion out of total trade volume of around $22billion.
The bilateral trade amounted to over $65 billion in 2013 – a fall from the years before -- with trade deficit totalling to $31.42 billion.
That concern was raised, the commerce minister said, adding so were the concerns about lack of accessibility of India’s IT and pharmaceutical companies in the Chinese market.
Chinese officials too raised their concerns about lack of speedy clearances to set up businesses in India; for one, it is still waiting for India to clear the setting up of a branch of Bank of China, the country’s flagship bank, in Mumbai.