Free Trade Agreement between India and China is a Distinct Possibility

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Since 2014, President Xi Jinping and PM Narendra Modi have met on several occasions. Zhong Shan said they had decided that the two would build a closer partnership in development and deepen cooperation in all areas. With the care and support of the and Indian leaders, the trade and economic ties between the two had kept a fast-growing momentum.

India seems to be talking it out with China, at least for the time being and on a few matters of importance. Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Chinese counterpart, Zhong Shan, met in Delhi last week for the first high-level contact between both sides that decided to ‘reset’ their ties in the run-up to Xi-Modi summit in China.

Zhong, who co-chaired the 11th meeting of the India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, trade, science, and technology with Prabhu, said a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and China would be negotiated in due course, which would be a breakthrough in ties. Since 2014, President Xi Jinping and PM Narendra Modi have met on several occasions. Zhong said they had decided that the two countries would build a closer partnership in development and deepen cooperation in all areas. With the care and support of the Chinese and Indian leaders, the trade and economic ties between the two countries had kept a fast-growing momentum.

In 2017, the bilateral trade reached $84.4 billion, registering a growth of 20.3% from the year before and a record high. In particular, China’s import from India soared by 40%, helping ease the bilateral trade imbalance. China remained India’s largest trading partner. India had become one of the most important overseas investment destination for Chinese companies. China welcomed the participation of Indian businesses in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, and IT sectors, and the participation of producers of manufactured goods.

While on the economic front India and China are in for some strong ties, on the defence front, things are a bit different. China reiterated vis-a-vis Doklam that with the military stand-off between them on this issue, it was looking forward to a new round of engagement with New Delhi. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that they are working to properly resolve this issue. Her remarks were in tune with Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s comments that India and China leaders had demonstrated strategic vision in tackling the crisis. Hua reiterated that China was committed to maintaining peace, stability, and tranquility there, and Donglang (Doklam) belongs to China.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hesitatingly said that China had constructed a helipad and other military structures around Doklam so the Indian will have to be put on alert in the area even in winter. Earlier, this was not the case. There was no deployment of Indian troops close to the Doklam border. Beijing wants to show to that India cannot guarantee to safeguard the territory of Doklam. China wants to remove all Indian influence in ; as it has done in Nepal where a communist regime backed by China has recently gained power. Beijing had explained and convinced Nepalese government to shun all differences and come together for an election. China had for long desired that should cease its control on Doklam in lieu of a territory in North which China would give back to the country. Hence China has exerted on Indian army.

This Chinese influence is quite visible in territorial and aerospace around Doklam. The Indian government made it clear in the parliament that in this sensitive territory, there has been a 56% increase in incidents of Chinese influence. In 2016, 273 cases of incursions were reported while in 2017 such incidents rose to 426. There is yet another diplomatic pressure China is trying to exert on India- it is trying to manipulate river and barrage schemes where rivers from Tibet are concerned. In India, one-third of all supply is provided by these rivers which originate in Tibet. Last year, China violated two such agreements on river waters which are useful for gauging flood- and alert in the area. In the northeast, such data is significant in controlling the flood-related damage. It is also increasing its influence in Nepal where can enter India without a passport and has almost an open border with India. This is posing a new security threat to the country. After Tibet, India is now trying to enter Indian positions through Nepal as a strategic route.

However, India’s soft stand on keeping China at bay is not going to yield positive results in the near future.  

©Navodita Pande

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Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24x7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.
Navodita Pande
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