Indian PM begins China visit

Widening trade gap likely to dominate talks between the two countries' leaders.

    Trade is on top of Singh's China visit agenda, but the border issue is likely to be figure as well [Reuters]
    Before the delegation left New Delhi, Shiv Shankar Menon, India's foreign secretary, said: "It's going to be a major business event ... bilateral trade has registered impressive growth.
     
    "We would like to sell much more to China and hence we set up the joint study group, because in the last few years trade shifted in China's favour and we are hoping to change that."
     
    The two sides had agreed in November 2006 to double trade to $40bn by 2010.
     
    Trade ministry figures say that since 2006, the deficit has risen from around $4bn to almost $9bn.
     
    Old suspicions
     
    Suspicions dating back to a brief war in 1962 and China's control of 129,500sq km area along the mountainous frontier claimed by India, have stood in the way closer Sino-Indian ties.
     
    Singh said he would discuss "issues relating to the boundary".
     
    This is expected to include the border dispute and India's concerns that Chinese troops have been making incursions over the de facto border - an often vague line high in the Himalayas.
     
    In the past, ties between Indian and China have also been dogged by Beijing's strategic alliance with Pakistan, to which China has supplied arms and missile technology.
     
    It appears unlikely that the border dispute would be resolved during this trip. Eleven rounds of talks have yielded little real progress so far.
     
    Trade potential
     
    Jasper Becker, a scholar on Chinese affairs, told Al Jazeera that the two nations have been trying to build economic ties for a decade, but they have been hindered by the border disputes and the lingering status of Tibet and the Tibetan exiled community.
     
    "The Indian prime minister is hoping to make a big push ... so that the potential of trade between the two countries can really grow.
     
    "What the two nations have been really trying to do over the last 10 years is to bypass the border issue ... and to really concentrate on economic co-operation.
     
    "So they have set some ambitious targets, including $40 bn of trade in the next three years.
     
    "And if you look at the last decade, they have been quite successful at managing this border issue and not letting it get in the way of their common interest."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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