People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 20, 2008
DESPATCHES FROM BEIJING -- Warmth Makes Snow Melt
PRIME Minister Dr Manmohan Singh addressing media aboard his special plane on homeward journey after conclusion of his three-day visit to China appeared ‘cautious yet confident’. Though looking very happy, instead of using hyperbole of ‘Chindia’ that some of his colleagues were prepared to indulge in, he was content with the expression of mere ‘satisfaction’ on his interaction with Chinese leadership. He thought success of his visit only “marks maturity for a strategic cooperative partnership for peace and development which we established in April 2005, when premier Wen Jiabao came to India.” He preferred terming progress made in India-China relations only as “incremental.”
No doubt even abundant caution doesn’t harm. Still this extra caution may not be coming only out of realisation that still there is no breakthrough in the vexed border issue. Similarly even in area of economic relations, questions from granting market economy status to China to regional trade agreement, are still kept hanging though with some movement. Extra caution appears also to have come from an extra sensitivity not only towards possible heckling from domestic jingoist lobby but also from the fear of courting displeasure of national as well as global ruling class and specially finance capital. But even this hesitation cannot deny objective course of history. The Giants of Asia are coming closer and are more and more acting together and this is bound to effect balance of forces world over.
The following are the despatches of the visit.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s maiden China visit began with further indications of both sides trying to significantly strengthen their relationship notwithstanding unresolved border issue and other problems. In his first programme after landing in January’s biting cold at Beijing to an equally warm welcome, visiting Indian prime minister went to see the preparations for 29th Olympic Games scheduled to be held later this year here.
National Stadium, specially built for functions of main stadium for Beijing Olympics is nothing less than a wonder both in its size and architecture. This stadium providing 258,000 sq meters of floor area is designed to look like a Bird’s nest through its innovative grid formation. Associating world gathering of sports persons with Birds gathering in a nest, not only communicates warmth of China as hosts but also gives a strong massage of peace and freedom of human spirit. That’s what sports are about. This stadium is to host opening and closing ceremonies and also track and fields events. The stadium can host 80,000 spectators.
The prime minister visiting the Beijing 2008 (Olympic) Project Exhibition centre wished “success of the Olympic Games in Beijing.”
On the first day evening Manmohan Singh attended a private dinner hosted in his honour by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at Diaoyutai Guest house. With very warm and sincere discussions at this dinner began the journey of trust that has paved way for important steps in direction of strengthening co-operative relationship between two Asian giants.
Economic cooperation is being looked as key to strengthening India-China ties. Emphasising urgent need and great potential for the same, Manmohan Singh brought in bit of history and reminded business leaders of two countries, “China, India and Europe had almost equal shares of world income in the early 18th century. As the 21st century unfolds, both India and China stand poised to regain their weight in the global economy.” He even suggested that economic decision makers of both the sides should move in direction of long term plans for this.
The prime minister addressed India-China Economic, Trade and Investment Summit. Organised by China Council for Promotion of International trade this meet saw participation of around 300 Chinese business representatives and a large delegation of Indian business people that accompanied prime minister on his visit. Chinese vice-premier Hui Liangyu and commerce ministers from both the countries also addressed the Summit. Office bearers of CII and FICCI represented the Indian business community.
In his meeting with Indian business people on the eve of this summit, Manmohan Singh had asked Indian business world to “think big” and “engage China and learn to be both competitive and cooperative.” But Indian business in-spite of summit rhetoric and prime minister’s call did not appear as enthusiastic. Complaining of insufficient openness and market driven-ness of Chinese economic structures, sections of Indian business seem to be making a case for more concessions. Still, the summit saw underlining of complementarities and cooperative possibilities between the two economies. Chinese side was urged to invest more in India for both domestic as well as export markets.
Chinese side has also shown sensitivity to the problem of growing trade deficit in its trade with India. They have assured to send buying missions to India to find out what more China can import from India. Enthusiasm generated by very rapid growth of trade between two countries has definitely affected the tone of Indian business community also. Need for increasing people to people exchanges through easing of visa restrictions was unanimously underlined.
At the same time prime minister’s calling economic co-operation “principal driver of our strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity” also suggested that progress in other areas of relationship between two Asian giants may not be equally quick. Besides border issues, China’s proposal for Regional Trade Agreement remains one of such sticking points. Manmohan Singh told the Business Summit, that Joint Task Force appointed to look at the feasibility of proposal had given his report and he will be discussing related issues with the Chinese leadership in the official talks. Similarly India’s refusal to grant China ‘market economy’ status is another problem area.
Anyhow as commerce minister Kamalnath informed the media during the visit itself, two sets of proposals were cleared. One proposal is of Chinese Cargo company Great Wall Air and India Jet Airways getting permission for operating in both the countries. Second, Chinese Channel CCTV and India's Zee TV similarly getting clearance for inter-country operations. But some questions are likely to be raised about Indian private sector being favoured with these opportunities of expansion at the cost of public sector companies.
With signing of a ‘vision document’ one important though small step has been taken in the direction of qualitative enhancing of scope of India-China cooperative relationship. Document opens with commitment of two sides to “promote building of a harmonious world of durable peace and common prosperity through developing the strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity between two countries.”
This document not only reiterates relevance of Panchsheel in new century but also underlines the significance of the fundamental principle of “right of each country to choose it’s own path of social, economic and political development” in which fundamental human rights and the rule of law are given their due importance. It also importantly underlines that “continuous democratisation of international relations and multilateralism are an important objective in new century.” It needs no reminding that India and China were among principal originators of Non-Aligned Movement.
This could well be a beginning of adding a much needed regional as well as world political dimension to this relationship that has rapidly progressed in its trade aspects in last five years. The signed document has been christened as—A shared vision for the 21st century of the Republic of India and People’s Republic of China. In an impressive signing ceremony in the historic Great Hall of People, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao underlined that this step takes cooperative relationship between two countries to higher level.
Dr Manmohan Singh reciprocated by not only asserting that “India-China relations are of a regional and global significance” but also reminded that “profound changes taking place in the world today present both our countries with a historic opportunity to work together towards a 21st century that is conducive to peace and development.”
The document clarifies that regional cooperation processes should be looked ‘positively’. China has assured its support for India’s aspiration for Security Council seat as well as its effort on civil nuclear energy front within framework of its international commitments and India has reiterated its firm adherence to ‘one china’ policy. Both the sides have also underlined various areas for mutually beneficial cooperation.
Both the sides have not only given commitment of resolving outstanding issues including boundary question through peaceful negotiations but have also resolved to ensure that “such differences are not allowed to effect the development of bilateral relations.” At the same time both sides have resolved to ask their special representatives on boundary issue to “complete at an early date the task of arriving at an agreed framework of settlement”. On trade front both the countries have agreed to a new target of increasing their trade from present 40 billion-dollar level to 60 billion dollar in next two years.
Giving concrete expression to substantive expansion of area of cooperation, ten more agreements were signed by representatives of two governments. The Indian prime minister was given ceremonial welcome at Great Hall. Premier Jiabao received him and the Indian delegation. Later in the evening in one to one talks and still later in delegation level discussions, the two sides concluded many important agreements which culminated in signing ceremony.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh addressing Chinese academics once again emphasised regional and even worldwide effect of growing relationship between two Asian giants. Underlining the significance of Common vision for 21st century signed by two countries, he said “the starting point is the recognition that India-China relations impinge not only on welfare of the people of the two countries, but also influence regional and global trends.”
Clarifying the scope of this influence, Dr Singh importantly underlined that “at global level, our two countries should be in forefront of the emergence of a more democratic global order and of multilateral approaches to resolving global issues. Today’s international institutions like UN Security Council no longer reflect reality and must be democratised.” He was speaking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on “India and China in 21st Century.”
He not only underlined complementarities and mutualities of development in case of India and China, but also spoke of necessity of inclusive development. Similarly in context of environmental concerns he was forthright in asserting that right of people for a better life in countries like India and China “can not be abandoned because of environmental damage done by others who followed a path which has squandered the earth’s resources.” He also brought to attention concerns regarding food and energy security for developing world. He made a fervent appeal for India and China building upon “ edifice of our civilisational links.”
President of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Chen Kuiyuan, while welcoming Dr Singh reminded of old traditions of exchanges and solidarity between India and China including Indian medical mission led by Dr Kotnis that served Chinese people during its fight against Japanese occupation. It is in fitness of things that one of the 11 agreements signed by two countries is for a solidarity India-China joint medical mission with ten doctors from both the sides, that will be visiting various areas in two countries in seventieth year of Kotnis mission.
The prime minister of India also had a meeting with National People’s Congress chairman Wu Bangguo at the Great Hall of People. Before concluding his important successful visit Manmohan Singh also had a substantive meeting with Chinese president and general secretary of CPC, Hu Jintao at the Great Hall, where many significant issues of mutual and global importance were discussed.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh viewed his visit to China and their signing of many agreements including all important shared vision for 21st Century as “maturing” of strategic cooperative partnership between two countries. Relations were taken to above partnership level with documents signed by both the countries for the same during Chinese premier Jiabao’s visit to India in 2005. Addressing media aboard his plane on journey back home, he expressed his “satisfaction” with outcome of visit, though calling progress in Indo-China relationship as reflected in his visit “incremental” only.
He emphasised that his meeting with Chinese leadership and specially Chinese president and general secretary of Communist Party of China Hu Jintao went beyond bilateral issues and also covered wide range of regional and global issues including situation in India’s neighbourhood. Answering questions from media he confided that even Chinese leadership is concerned about developments in Pakistan including recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Emphasising the progress made, the prime minister drew pointed attention to the fact that even on complex and complicated issue of border both the sides have agreed to instructing their special representatives for border talks to speed up finalisation of agreed framework for settlement of border issue. Dr Singh further informed that two drafts have already been presented and now through discussion on the two, an agreed framework has to be worked on.
On India’s aspiration for a Security Council seat as well as question of support for India on nuclear issue especially at the IAEA governing body and Nuclear Supplier’s Group, Dr Singh clarified that though he does not have specific commitments, the sense of his talks with Chinese leadership is that it is not going to stand in India’s way. Dr Singh also informed that India has proposed cooperation with China at the level of nuclear establishment of two countries that China is yet to clear.
In response to a question Dr Singh highly praised China for its achievements. “China has become world’s manufacturing workshop. It is phenomenal story of what development should be about. Also the way they have handled problems of poverty alleviation, the way they have handled the whole issue of migration from rural areas to urban areas is phenomenal. Today nearly 40 per cent Chinese population is living in urban areas. China’s achievements are very remarkable.” At the same time he reminded the important differences that remain between two sides on question of market economy status for China and non-tariff barriers that Indian exports face in China.