China-India ties witness progress in 2012

Sino-India ties witnessed a positive momentum in 2012, the year that also saw the once-in-a-decade leadership change in China`s ruling CPC.

Beijing: Sino-India ties witnessed a positive momentum in 2012, the year that also saw the once-in-a-decade leadership change in China`s ruling CPC, with the two Asian giants reaching a "common understanding" on the progress made in the 15 rounds of their border talks so far.

The "common understanding" was reached during parleys between National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and China`s State Councillor Dai Bingguo here in early December.

It is to be approved by the leadership of both countries and it relates to the talks between the two sides on the framework for a boundary settlement, which is the key to final phase of the boundary demarcation.

Both Menon and Dai are designated Special Representatives for the boundary talks. They held an informal round of discussions on December 3 and 4 on the bilateral relations ahead of the transfer of power in China.

So far, the two countries have held 15 rounds of talks to resolve the dispute.

Also, China, for the first time in 10 years, will have a new Special Representative for the boundary talks and India- China bilateral engagement in 2013, as Dai, China`s point man for India, is set to retire along with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, who provided a positive momentum for bilateral ties during their decade-long stint in power.

The "common understanding" on the progress made on the border talks, which is yet to be revealed, is expected to provide a degree of clarity for the new Chinese Special Representative to be named after March.

Framework for the settlement is the second stage of the
negotiation process agreed by the two countries. It is aimed at working out a framework for boundary settlement.

The first stage of working guiding principles resulted in agreement in 2005, which had set out political parameters and guiding principles for boundary settlement.
Once the framework is in place, the two countries would set out for a "fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable" boundary settlement.

While the boundary settlement process is still far away, the two sides put emphasis on keeping the border peaceful and deepening the relations without letting the issue to hamper positive momentum in the ties.

India asserts that the border dispute covers about 4000 km, while China claims it is confined to about 2000 km to the area of Arunachal Pradesh, which it refers to as Southern Tibet.

With the current year drawing to a close, a number of high-level visits are expected to take place between India and China in 2013, when the new Chinese leadership would formally take office and is expected to provide a new momentum to the deepening engagement between the two Asian giants.

The contacts are likely to begin after the new CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping takes over as President and Li Keqiang as Premier in March, succeeding Hu and Wen respectively.

Also, 2013 promises to be a good year for the India-China bilateral trade as Beijing pledged to address India`s concerns over trade deficit, which crossed USD 23 billion in the first ten months of this year.

India wants major openings for IT, pharmaceutical and agricultural products in Chinese markets.

Last year the deficit stood at USD 27.07 billion even though bilateral trade touched all time high of USD 73.9 billion.

India-China bilateral trade, which flourished till last year, is also facing a downturn this year with the overall trade declining to USD 55.6 billion in the first ten months, registering an 8.1 per cent slump.

Indian exports to China totalled USD 16.3 billion registering a 13.3 per cent decline.

Expectations are high for the trade relations next year as the two countries held a successful Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) in New Delhi last month during which 11 agreements entailing investment of over USD five billion (about Rs 27,865 crore) were signed.

On the domestic front, global focus would be on China next year as Xi and his fellow leaders look to consolidate their hold on the power structure, amid economic slowdown.
The change of leadership in China followed a major scandal which centred around disgraced Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, who is currently awaiting trial over a host of charges involving sex, sleaze and corruption.

His wife Gu Kailai has already been given suspended death sentence for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Bo has been accused of shielding her from the probe.
The scandal broke out after the Police Chief of Chongqing, a city headed by Bo, sought refuge in the US consulate in Chengdu fearing reprisals from Bo for investigating the role of Gu in Heywood`s murder.

He finally came out of the US consulate after assurances were given to protect his life and later sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Bo was regarded as a hardliner, who was trying to revive discarded ideology of Mao Zedong.

Both Hu and Xi have acknowledged that corruption has become endemic in China threatening the Communist Party`s hold on power and called for measures to address the malice.

On the defence front, China has launched its first aircraft carrier in the midst of its growing maritime disputes with neighbours in the South China Sea as well as Japan over the islands in East China Sea.

Plush with USD 100 billion annual defence budget, China is also said to have developed a stealth fighter J-31 and a new fighter called J-15 to be used on its aircraft carrier, raising concerns in India and other countries in the neighbourhood.

Hit hard by the falling exports, China`s economy is expected to post 7.5 per cent GDP growth rate this year, far below the double digit growth rates till 2010.


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