Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping along the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil will provide the two leaders the opportunity to lay the framework for a new chapter in bilateral ties.
With the two leaders known in their respective countries for their strong leadership styles, the meeting, which will take place on Tuesday (Monday evening in Brazil), has been accorded more than usual importance: the talks, according to officials on both sides, will also be unusually substantive for an interaction taking place on the sidelines of a multilateral summit. Both leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of strategic and economic issues, as well as common concerns on multilateral matters such as the situation in Afghanistan and the imminent withdrawal of U.S. forces.
In China, most attention has focussed on trade ties. Mr. Modi is seen here as among the most business-friendly of India’s leaders, in part because of his four visits as Gujarat Chief Minister and his State’s courting of investment. His last visit saw the signing of a record $500-million deal for an energy park by the Chinese firm TBEA.
India and China on June 30 signed a first-ever MoU to formalise the setting up of China-dedicated industrial parks in India, with four such parks being considered. An industrial park cooperation working group to finalise locations and investment policies has been set up.
The move comes as both sides attempt to revive bilateral trade, which fell by 12 per cent last year — after a decade of rapid growth — to $66 billion, even as the imbalance in China’s favour expanded to a record $29 billion.
The deficit this year is on track to surpass last year’s figure. According to newly released trade figures for the first half of 2014 available with The Hindu , exports to China amounted to only $9.16 billion out of two-way trade of $33.82 billion in the first six months.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong told presspersons here that he expected the Modi-Xi meeting to “have implications for advancing bilateral relations and further promote cooperation between the two countries”.
Lan Jianxue, a strategic affairs expert at the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS), a Foreign Ministry-affiliated think-tank and a former diplomat at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, said in an earlier interview with The Hindu that he saw Mr. Modi as “a business-friendly politician” who would boost economic ties and had been engaging with Chinese entrepreneurs.
For the two governments, the priority now should be to “reconnect immediately and reach as much consensus as possible on the future road map,” he said.
He said both sides should not only “respect the existing effective mechanisms between two sides regarding political, economic, strategic, cultural issues and the boundary question” but also “explore the new dividend Mr. Modi and his administration would bring towards China-India relationship”.