India will soon be exporting its sweet-smelling rice to China, which recently gave its nod for Indian Basmati to enter its markets.
"We have finally got permission to export Basmati to China. This is a new thing," said a high ranking Indian official in Shanghai.
The issue of Basmati's exports was raised at the last meeting of the Joint Economic Forum in China last January, which had focused on ways to address market access and trade imbalance.
So far, the Gulf region has been the biggest market for Basmati rice, but Indian government has been looking to diversify markets to other countries such as China.
India's Ambassador to China, S Jaishankar said efforts were being made to improve the profile of Indian products in China. "We are focusing on trade promotion in 17 different cities in China with special focus on IT, pharmaceuticals, agricultural and engineering products," he said.
The bilateral trade has grown exponentially in the last ten years - though there was a slight dip last year to $43.2 billion due to the global recession. But, in the last six months, trade has again picked up and increased by 60 per cent, compared to the same period last year.
India's exports to China have also risen by 75 per cent, but they have mainly been raw products, like minerals, cotton and cotton yarn.
Besides Basmati, India is aiming to increase exports of other agricultural items such as mangoes and okra. "We have been in negotiation for two years for export of okra," an Indian official said.
Indian President Pratibha Patil Sunday met chief of Shanghai Communist Party, Yu Zhengsheng, where the issue of improving the trade balance came up.
According to Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the senior Chinese leader also stressed the need for balancing trade. She said Yu conveyed that this imbalance was "not good" for China in the long term and assured Patil that the Chinese government was giving serious thought to the problem.
President Patil also raised the issue of setting up of Chinese banks in India. There were 11 Indian banks operating in China, with four of them - State Bank of India, Bank of India, Canara Bank and Bank of Baroda - having full-fledged offices.
On the last day of her six-day trip, Patil will be addressing businessmen and entrepreneurs at the China Business Forum Monday.