India’s decision to attend the function at Oslo on December 10,2010, to award in absentia the Nobel peace prize to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, presently in jail in China, has not had any impact on the plans of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to visit India from December 15 to 17.
2. Jiang Yu, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, announced on December 12 that Wen Jiabao will pay official visits to India and Pakistan from Wednesday to Sunday and that during his visit to India Wen will attend activities marking the 60th anniversary of China-India diplomatic ties. The spokesperson added that in Pakistan, Wen will attend a China-Pakistan business summit and meet people who have contributed to the friendship of the two countries.
3. In a media briefing on December 13, Liang Wenzhao, Deputy Director of the Department of Asian Affairs of China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), said that China and India are expected to sign a series of economic and trade agreements during Wen’s visit to India. He said that the bilateral cooperation agreements would cover trade, renewable energy, infrastructure and finance. He declined to confirm the specific value of the agreements, saying they were still under negotiation and would be formally released during Wen’s visit. More than 100 senior representatives from Chinese business community will be accompanying Wen.
4.Liang acknowledged that the trade imbalance had been a “factual issue” concerning the bilateral trade. He added that China had never pursued a trade surplus and that the problem was caused by the economic structures of the two nations and their export orientations. The Chinese Government had been taking measures to expand imports from India to balance bilateral trade, Liang said.
5.According to official Chinese statistics, China is India’s largest trade partner with two-way trade rising from $18.7 billion in 2005 to $51.8 billion in 2008. The bilateral trade value is expected to reach $60 billion this year.
6.Liang urged Indian companies to increase investments in China and actively participate in Chinese trade fairs to promote their products, so that they could benefit from China’s rocketing economic growth. China’s market was always open to foreign products, including those from India, Liang said. China’s markets were open to more Indian products, especially from the information technology industry.
7. As part of the preparations for Wen’s visit to Pakistan, a meeting of the Pak-China Joint Committee on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation (JEC) was held in Islamabad. It was indicated after the meeting that China has agreed to extend co-operation in 36 development projects worth $13.2 billion related to industry, water, energy, agriculture, fisheries and communications. The meeting also discussed ways to increase bilateral trade which is presently estimated at US $ 6.2 billion per annum.
8. Addressing the Chinese delegation to the meeting on December 2,Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani thanked the Chinese Government for the timely assistance for the flood affected people. He was quoted as saying that Pakistan would appreciate it if the Chinese assistance programme got gelled with Pakistan’s National Strategy for the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of the flood affected areas covering all the four provinces as well as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan. Gao Hucheng, the leader of the Chinese delegation, reportedly said that China would like to participate in the reconstruction phase in all areas of Pakistan. According to Pakistani media reports, he particularly mentioned the upgradation of the Karakoram Highway in this regard.
9. Gilani, who visited Kabul on December 4, told Pakistani media personnel accompanying him that President Hamid Karzai has endorsed the concept of trilateral trade relations involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. He added that this would be discussed with Wen during his visit to Pakistan. Islamabad is keen to have similar trilateral economic relations involving Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka. This was one of the subjects reportedly discussed during President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent visit to Sri Lanka.
( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary ( retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )