Indian PM pushes trade in Beijing

Manmohan Singh begins rare China visit calling for strengthened economic ties.

    Singh's visit to China is the first by an
    Indian leader in five years [GALLO/GETTY]

    Singh's visit to China comes amid a thaw in relations between the two Asian giants, with both sides looking to sweep aside past border disputes in favour of strengthened economic ties.


    Combined, India and China make up more than a third of the world's population and with both countries enjoying soaring growth rates, they are increasingly engines of the global economy.


    Emerging giants

    Total population

    China: 1.322 billion

    India: 1.130 billion

    Combined: 2.452 billion (37.14% of world total)



    China: $2.5 trillion

    India: $1.2 trillion

    Combined: $3.7 trillion (7.25% of world total)


    Growth rate

    China: 10.5% (forecast 2007)

    India: 9.1% (Jan-Mar 2007)


    India-China bilateral trade

    Now: $35bn

    2010 forecast: $40bn


    Percentage of population earning less than $1 a day

    China: 9.9%

    India: 34%

    "I would urge Indian business to vigorously pursue opportunities for expanding non-traditional items of export," Singh said in a speech before talks on Monday with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao.


    "Such efforts, when matched by greater market access for Indian goods in China, will help to bridge the rising trade deficit between us."


    Singh is looking to reverse a growing trade gap with China which, according to Indian figures, jumped to about $9 billion last year from $4 billion a year earlier.


    Al Jazeera's Beijing correspondent, Tony Cheng, says that while trade has boomed in recent years there is still a great deal of unease with both sides accusing the other of keeping tight control on domestic markets.


    Singh however was upbeat over the prospects for his visit, saying both governments would "work together to put in place an enabling

    environment for greater trade, investment and economic interaction".


    The Indian leader has said he wants to discuss a wide range of issues during his visit including UN reforms, regional dialogue and global issues such as climate change, energy security and counter-terrorism.


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    Our correspondent says another subject likely come up is the instability in Myanmar, with both countries worried about each others' influence on the military government there.


    India is also increasingly concerned about China's close relations with Pakistan, particularly its military aid and assistance.


    As a result Chinese media have been playing down the prospects of any major breakthrough from Singh's three-day visit.


    An editorial in the China Daily on Monday cautioned that it would be "unrealistic" to expect a solution on a long-standing territorial dispute between China and India which led to a brief war in 1962.


    But while that subject is likely to be on the agenda during the summit talks, much of the focus will be on the growing economic interaction between the two countries.


    "We would like to sell much more to China," Shiv Shankar Menon, the Indian foreign minister, told journalists before leaving New Delhi at the weekend.


    "In the last few years trade shifted in China's favour, and we are hoping to change that."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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