China-India relations are a complex mix of cooperation and competition. As the two largest emerging economies, their ties are of great significance to regional stability and even global development. After going through a turbulent phase, bilateral relations started to improve in 2018 and some speculated that there would be a new beginning for the world’s two most populous countries. However, despite increasing cooperation between the two sides, uncertainties and divergent opinions remain.
Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) talked to India’s new Ambassador to China, Vikram Misri (Misri), on India-China relations, economic and trade cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and more.
GT: What is your top priority as Indian Ambassador to China? In which areas will India strengthen cooperation with China in 2019?
Misri: There are three areas that would be my leading priorities during my tenure. First is enhancing economic cooperation between India and China. Bilateral trade will cross the $100 billion mark this year. However, this figure includes a deficit of $58 billion for India and this deficit has been increasing over the years. Addressing this trade deficit would be one of my priorities because it is not really sustainable in the long term. We have been working with the Chinese side for ensuring greater market access to Indian agricultural products such as sugar and rice, as well as various fruits and vegetables, and are also closely cooperating with them for greater access to other products that are globally recognized as strengths of India, such as pharmaceuticals and IT. Progress has been made in some of these areas, but translating this progress into actual and sustained exports is important. We hope that in this regard, we will receive support from the Chinese side and expand our trade basket.
The second focus area for me would be to enhance people-to-people and cultural contacts. In 2018, the total number of travelers from China to India and vice versa added up to just 1 million, which is a minuscule number when we consider that our combined population is 2.6 billion. We need to change these figures and promote our countries as preferred tourist destinations for each other. This would be the best way to enhance trust and understanding between our two peoples and further strengthen our overall bilateral relationship. The year 2020 will mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China and enhancing these exchanges would be an important component of the celebrations to commemorate this important anniversary.
The third focus area for me would be to promote cooperation between India and China in regional and global affairs. As two large and developing economies of Asia, India and China share common concerns and positions on many issues of regional and global importance such as climate change, energy security, counter-terrorism and the international trading system. We would like to further strengthen our cooperation in all these areas.