Roller coaster year for Sino-India ties

The relationship between India and China experienced both highs and lows in 2013 with high-level reciprocal visits and inking of a pact to defuse recurring border stand-offs after incursions by Chinese troops dented bilateral ties.

Beijing: The relationship between India and China experienced both highs and lows in 2013 with high-level reciprocal visits and inking of a pact to defuse recurring border stand-offs after incursions by Chinese troops dented bilateral ties.

Notwithstanding tensions, Prime Ministers of both the countries paid back to back visits to each other for the first time in nearly six decades.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited New Delhi in April and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to Beijing in October.

The last time such reciprocal visits took place was in 1954 when Premier Zhou Enlai and Jawaharlal Nehru visited each others` country.
The visits of Li and Singh in 2013 were regarded as landmark and the two sides tried to recreate the warmth and friendship which had evaporated after the 1962 war.

The significance of Li`s decision to make India his first destination after taking over office was in danger of loosing its importance when Chinese troops pitched their tents in Depsang Valley in Ladakh region in April.

However, the prickly issue was resolved through intesne talks which led to the withdrawal of the Chinese troops.

Li`s goodwill tour was fairly successful with the Chinese leader seeking to assuage frayed tempers. The impact of Li`s visit was felt during Singh`s trip to Beijing when the Chinese leadership displayed considerable warmth.

During Singh`s three-day visit the two sides signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) which provided a comprehensive mechanism to address issues arising out of the patrolling of the disputed border.

The closely negotiated agreement, aimed at reducing any future frictions at the border, could provide a new opening to push forward relations enabling the two countries to device means of progress even as they negotiate for its settlement by the designated officials.
Besides the BDCA, the militaries of the two countries resumed their joint military exercises after a gap of five years.

Singh`s visit was marked by informality as he was hosted a lunch by former Premier Wen Jiabao and Li took Singh for a walk around the Forbidden City, both being unique symbolic gestures.

Soon after taking over power in March, President Xi Jinping, who emerged as a strong leader holding the troika of power centres -- the head of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), Presidency and the Chief of the People`s Liberation Army -- unveiled a five-point formula to improve ties with India.

He proposed accommodation of each other`s core concerns and proper handling of differences while seeking peace on the border as the two sides worked for a resolution of the dispute.

The five proposals made by Xi included bilateral cooperation in infrastructure, mutual investment, collaboration in multilateral fora to protect the interest of the developing countries and tackling global challenges.

"The border question is a complex issue left from history and solving the issue won`t be easy. However, as long as we keep up friendly consultations, we can eventually arrive at a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement," Xi had said in an interview.

Singh, during his visit, had the rare honour of addressing CPC Central School in Beijing where he identified eight areas of cooperation and proposed seven practical principles of engagement to set India-China relations on path of progress.

His proposals included sensitivity to mutual core concerns while maintaining peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas, which he said has been the "cornerstone" of the relationship.
Another interesting point made by Singh was to allay apprehensions about India`s engagement with the US, Japan and other countries in Asia Pacific while highlighting concerns in India about China`s strategic "all weather" relationship with Pakistan.

An important achievement this year from India`s point of view was the agreement on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers under which China has agreed to provide additional 15 days of flood season data of the Brahmaputra River.

India has been highlighting its concerns over China building several dams on the river in Tibet as it could restrict the water flows.

The data will help India have an idea of the river water flows. China has been assuring India that it is alive to the concerns and its dams are rung of the river projects therefore would not hold water.

The bilateral relationship also witnessed its share of lows as apart from instances of Chinese incursions the two countries missed out on a big opportunity to sign agreements to liberalise the visa regime which could benefit them especially in the investment sector.

Differences between the two sides came to the fore this year when China continued its policy to issue visas on paper to residents of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as Southern Tibet.

A controversy was generated in October by China`s decision to grant visas on paper to two archers from Arunachal Pradesh. India had lodged a protest with China on the issue, terming the move as "unsavoury and unacceptable".

India objects to the issuance of stapled visas for any of its nationals wanting to proceed to China. China`s stapled visa policy has prevented residents from Arunachal Pradesh from travelling to that country, making it a contentious issue in bilateral relations.

Over 600,000 Indians visited China in 2012 displaying growing interest about China in India but only over a 100,000 Chinese visited India, which shows, India has to do a lot to attract more Chinese tourists.

Also the two countries plan to step up bilateral trade to USD 100 billion by 2015 from the present over USD 66 billion.

India has been highlighting its concerns over USD 30 billion trade deficit and asking for a major opening for India`s Information Technology and Pharmaceuticals which are famous all over the world.

While promising to address the trade deficit issue, China is also looking to step up investments in India to generate more business and trade as well jobs.

India has agreed in principle to set up Chinese investment parks. Chinese officials are currently visiting India to identify an appropriate place for begin the projects.

Trade cooperation is one of the pillars of the bilateral relationship and both the countries were expected to benefit from the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) trade corridor proposed by Premier Li during his visit to India this year.

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