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Hu Jintao arrives in India

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 20:44 IST
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India and China, the two Asian giants and the world's two fastest growing economies, are set to give fresh impetus to their burgeoning strategic and economic ties by signing around 10 agreements on Tuesday in diverse areas, including trade, education and health.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday evening on a four-day visit, will discuss an array of bilateral and global issues, including the decades-old border row, acceleration of trade and investment, civil nuclear cooperation and global issues like UN reforms with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He was received at the airport by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

A bilateral investment and protection agreement between India and China aimed at boosting bilateral economic ties will be among at least half a dozen trade-related agreements that will be signed between the two sides on Tuesday. Bilateral trade is expected to exceed $20 billion this year.

Although the two countries are expected to discuss the proposed free trade area (FTA) between them, the signing of an FTA is not on the cards during Hu's visit.

"I will be meeting the Chinese trade and industry minister. They are coming with the Chinese president. We are likely to sign seven or eight trade agreements," Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told reporters hours before Hu arrived.

The minister categorically stated that the signing of a much talked about free trade agreement with China was not on the agenda during Hu's visit.

In an attempt to boost confidence level needed to resolve trickier issues like the border dispute, the two countries are also expected to set up a hotline between their foreign ministers.

From New Delhi's point of view, the thrust of Hu's visit is to further reinforce the "global dimension" of the bilateral relationship and send a signal to the world that "India and China are partners on the global stage as well."

"The strategic and global partnership for peace and partnership India and China signed last year during Premier Wen Jiabao's visit showed we have to do global business together," a senior official, who did not want to be named, said.

"President Hu's visit is a landmark in China-India relations. The most important task of this tour is to enrich the strategic partnership between China and India," Sun Yuxi, Chinese ambassador to India, said.

India's approach to Hu's visit that is expected to bridge trust deficit between them is to keep engaging Beijing on difficult issues like the border dispute but not to allow this issue to prevent progress in other areas like growing trade and economic relations and cooperation on global issues.

"We have made progress on the boundary issue and we will keep talking despite the differences. Over the years, the border has been peaceful," a senior official said.

"We have a better relationship than China than ever before. As we change and grow, both India and China have space to grow together," the official stressed.

Knowing Beijing's sensitivities on the Tibetan issue, New Delhi has let it be known to Beijing that it recognises Tibet as an autonomous region of China.

India is also keen to get across to China, which is worried about some Indian security-related bars to Chinese investment here, that New Delhi does not have a discriminatory policy on foreign investment.

"There are no country-specific rules," the official stressed.

However, certain sectors like infrastructure and telecom, due to their sensitivities, require security approvals. But here also, rules are the same for everybody, he added.

Alluding to the Chinese envoy's concerns about alleged discrimination against Chinese investment in India, the official said that it reflected "a sense of victim-hood" that was not grounded in reality.

China has 30 projects estimated to be worth $6.9 billion in India - the largest number Beijing has in any country abroad, according to an official.

Kamal Nath has expressed satisfaction over the pace of growth of trade between the two countries. "India and China's annual trade has grown from $1 billion to $20 billion in a span of four years."

"It is clear that both the sides have lot of synergies. We welcome Chinese investment in India," Kamal Nath said, clarifying that there were no security or any other concerns related to Chinese investment in India.

India and China must have healthy competition and not confrontation, Minister of State of Commerce Jairam Ramesh said at a Roundtable on "India-China: Drivers of the World Economy". "We need to change mindsets in our approach to China," he said.

Hu will address parliamentarians, industrialists and diplomats at Vigyan Bhavan convention centre Wednesday. He later leaves for Agra and then to Mumbai for an overnight stay before proceeding to Pakistan.

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