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Beijing calling: India, China seek robust engagement

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china-friend-newThe election of Narendra Modi as the new prime minister of India has triggered much enthusiasm among China’s power circles, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang seeking robust engagement between the two countries, who are often projected as rivals in the Asian hemisphere.

Three days after Modi was sworn in as the 15 prime minister of India, China’s Li  became the first foreign leader to call his Indian counterpart and conveyed his government’s desire to establish robust partnership with the new government of India for further development of ties. The telephonic conversation lasted for 45 minutes. Prime Minister Modi promptly reciprocated the desire for stronger and rounded relations with Asia’s largest economy, whose rise has sparked a mixture of admiration, envy and fear among India’s elite. China is a top priority for India, said Modi in a tweet.

Modi also invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit India, a trip that is likely to happen towards the end of the year. The last Chinese leader to visit India on a bilateral trip was Hu Jintao in 2006. Hu travelled again to India in 2012, but that trip was primarily to attend the BRICS summit of emerging powers.

In his conversation, Modi underscored his government’s resolve to utilize the full potential of India’s strategic and cooperative partnership with China and his keenness to work closely with the Chinese leadership “to deal with any outstanding issues in bilateral relations by proceeding from the strategic perspective of our developmental goals and long-term benefits to our peoples.”

India’s economic relations with China have been steadily growing, with bilateral trade surpassing $70 billion, but the ties remain shadowed by a residue of strategic distrust that emanates from an unresolved boundary dispute.

Last year, bilateral ties were severely tested by a weeks-long diplomatic standoff over deep incursions by Chinese troops into the Indian territory of Ladakh that had revived the scenarios of threat and conflict between the two Asian giants. The incursions, however, set off a process of sustained engagement that culminated in the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, an umbrella pact designed to speedily manage any conflict or crisis springing from large-scale incursions, signed during India’s then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit to Beijing in October 2013.

This year, the two countries are celebrating “friendly exchanges,” with prime focus on expanding media and cultural linkages to bolster people-to-people contacts and a more nuanced public perception of each other’s society and culture.

 

 

 


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