Expectations high for Prime Minister's visit
By Ambassador Ashok K. Kantha
Two nations working to create a 'defining' bilateral partnership
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Xi'an, Beijing and Shanghai during his official visit to China from May 14 to 16.
His visit has raised expectations from both countries, as is evident from interest generated by his weibo, or micro blog account, which he set up a few days ago.
His first post"Hello China" triggered more than 9 million hits within 48 hours.
The prime minister's subsequent posts and his wish to directly interact with friends from China have been extremely well received, providing us with the perfect setting for what we expect to be a path-breaking visit.
The two ancient civilizations are also the two fastest growing large economies in the world and are playing a profound and growing role in the international community.
As the two most populous countries, the simultaneous reemergence of India and China is an exciting time that benefits the people of our two countries and also contributes to Asia and the world.
Our respective dreams are interlinked and we are striving to expand our cooperation across diverse sectors.
This process of the two countries - which have historically played key roles in global affairs -pursuing their own national developmental goals and security interests ought to unfold in a mutually supportive manner, sensitive to each other's concerns,interests and aspirations.
I have no doubt that how India and China engage with each other will be a defining relationship in the 21st century in Asia and indeed globally.
There are many things that India and China can learn from each other. We admire the transformation that China has achieved in a short span of time. We admire China's "3S advantages" - skill, speed and scale - which it has leveraged for its development.
This year we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.The India-China relationship has come a long way, and there has been impressive progress in different domains.
It is a relationship that has benefited immensely from dialogue at leadership-level. Our leaders designated 2014 as the India-China Year of Friendly Exchanges.
There have been a number of high-profile visits: Foreign Minister Wang Yi went to India as special envoy of President Xi Jinping in June; our vice president came to China at the end of June to participate in the 60th anniversary of Panchsheel - Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence events.
Our National Security Advisor came to China in September as the special envoy of Prime Minister Modi.
The high point of the Year of Friendly Exchanges was the State visit of President Xi to India in September, which was a landmark event in our bilateral relations.
The momentum of high-level visits has continued this year. Our external affairs minister visited China at the end of January and early February and, as well as the bilateral component, also participated in the Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting.
State Councilor Yang Jiechi visited India in March. These exchanges provide a solid basis for the forthcoming visit of our Prime Minister to China.
Our two countries have stepped up engagement at sub-national level as we recognize that widespread interactions between two large countries such as ours cannot be driven from the capitals alone.
We now have several twinning arrangements between our states, provinces and cities, which will be expanded further.
There have been productive visits by leaders of the states and provinces, the most recent being the visit of the chief minister of the State of Andhra Pradesh to China and the visit of the Party secretary of Shaanxi province to India. We are preparing tolaunch a State and provincial leaders' forum to tap into this driving force of bilateral relations.
India and China have also expanded their cooperation in the defense and security domain. Our two militaries engage with each other at different levels right from headquarters to border troops. We held joint exercises between our armies. Such interactions have contributed to bridging the trust gap.
The economic and trade links between our two countries have expanded at an impressive pace. Our bilateral trade volume was more than $70 billion last year.
However, our economic relations do not do justice to their potential. The imbalanced nature of trade is amatter of concern for both our countries.
According to our provisional data, India's trade deficit with China in 2014 was about $45billion, accounting for nearly one-third of India's global trade deficit.
Our policy for addressing this is to expand and diversify trade relations with China rather than constrict them.
For this, we have sought better market access in China for Indian products and services that have a comparative advantage, especially in areas where we are strong, such as IT and pharmaceuticals.
We are confident thatour exports to China will increase and trade imbalance will be addressed if wehave improved access to the Chinese market.
We also see huge potential for two-way investment flows.
During President Xi's visit to India, China pledged investment of $20 billion in India during the next five years, and Prime Minister Modi invited Chinese companies to participate in the economic development of India, particularly in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.
We are poised forsignificant expansion of two-way investment flows. We expect this process toreceive major impetus during Prime Minister Modi's visit to China.
We expect the visit toresult in the delineation of the "Closer Development Partnership"announced during President Xi's India visit.
New avenues ofcooperation are being explored in areas from yoga to outer space.
People-to-people exchanges are something that I especially wish to highlight since they provide the social foundations for the continuous growth of our relationship. I would like to mention two recent developments.
When President Xi visited India last year, he and Prime Minister Modi decided to jointly celebrate 2015 as the Visit India Year in China and 2016 as the Visit China Year in India to enhance tourism flows between our two countries.
We launched the Visit India Year at a special function in Beijing during the visit of our external affairs minister, in which Prime Minister Modi sent out a personal video message inviting Chinese people to visit India.
We are organizing aseries of events in China this year to introduce India as a tourist destination with a varied menu of attractions.
Our embassy and consulates in China have already streamlined visa issuance so that Chinese nationals wishing to go to India for tourism can obtain a visa within two working days.
Another important outcome of President Xi's visit was the Chinese decision to open a new route for the pilgrimage through Nathula.
A vital aspect of ourstrategic partnership is that our relationship has transcended the bilateral realm and acquired regional and global significance, especially on issues such as climate change, WTO and reform of international financial institutions.
We are both members of BRICS and have launched the New Development Bank. India is one of the prospective founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Our two countries are not only comparing notes on regional and global issues, but are also working together to shape the regional and global agenda.
When we discuss relations between such large countries and neighbors such as India and China,we cannot avoid the differences between us.
However, our policy has been that, while we continue to purposefully address outstanding issues, we do not let them hinder overall development of our bilateral relations.
The leaders of both our countries have expressed a strong determination to develop our partnership in an all-round manner.
We believe, that the prime minister's visit will significantly contribute to and help build even closer engagement between India and China.
Through this visit, we hope to put in place a new agenda to take our relationship forward, while implementing the understandings already reached