Beijing: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday offered to cooperate with China on nuclear energy during a trip to Beijing in which the booming Asian neighbours are seeking to overcome distrust and deepen trade ties.
Shared vision: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) meets Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday, the last day of his three-day visit to China.
The comments come close on the heels as India tries to advance a deal on civilian nuclear energy with the US over opposition from Singh’s Communist allies and amid discomfort in China over growing closeness between Washington, DC and New Delhi.
“We can do much more to jointly develop clean and energy-efficient technologies through collaborating research and development,” Singh said. “India seeks international cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear energy, including with China.”
As the world’s two fastest growing major economies, the rise of China and India requires new strategies on energy sources and security, Singh added. Indian officials had said?the?country?would be seeking China’s support for India’s nuclear energy ambitions. Analysts say that while China is unhappy with the US deal, it would not want to be seen using its weight to stymie the accord. Relations between the two countries have also been dogged by a decades-old border dispute that flared into a brief war in 1962. There was no hint of a breakthrough at Singh’s talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday.
But Singh said the two countries had an obligation to get beyond “problems that have troubled our relations,” and added that he believed the boundary issue could be settled on the basis of political parameters agreed when Jiabao was in India in 2005.
Despite lingering frictions, bilateral trade soared to $38 billion (Rs1.49 trillion) in 2007—up 56% from the previous year, and China and India have pledged to boost that to $60 billion by 2010. “Just as the world economy was largely about Western nations in the 20th century, it could be largely about Asia in the 21st century,” Singh said in the speech to the Chinese Academy of Social Science. There was room enough for the rise of both countries, which together comprise more than 20% of the world’s population, he said.
Singh’s delegation to China includes commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath and a business delegation that includes representatives from firms such as Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Tata International Ltd and Hero Honda Motors Ltd.
Singh met Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday. Singh sought to reassure him that India was not seeking to contain China. Beijing has been wary of India’s burgeoning friendship with the US. The Indian Navy was involved in war games last year with those of the US, Australia, Japan and Singapore, in what some analysts saw as an emerging alliance of democracies ranged against China’s military might.
Singh and Jiabao also agreed to start talks to develop a “high-quality” regional trading agreement and cooperate in civil nuclear energy as the two nations unveiled a “shared vision for the 21st century.” The vision statement, signed by the two leaders in Beijing on Monday, marks a new chapter in Sino-Indian relations, which have been marred for more than five decades of mistrust.
China also backed India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, while India endorsed the “one-China” principle that considers Taiwan as part of the Communist nation. Closer Sino-India ties may hasten Asian economic integration, making the region less dependent on the US and Europe for growth.
“It’s a positive development,” said Vinod Khanna, a former Indian ambassador to China. “Given the sheer size of the two countries, it will have an impact on Asia and the economic integration process that is going on.”
Asia’s economic fortunes are currently dependent on consumer demand in the US—the world’s biggest economy. On Monday, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its growth forecasts for the region, citing concern?that?an?expected recession in the US this year will erode demand for Asian exports.
China’s $2.7 trillion economy expanded 11.5% in the quarter ended 30 September, while India’s $906 billion economy grew 8.9% during the period. That compares with the 2.8% growth in the US and 2.7% gain by the dozen countries sharing the euro.
Bloomberg’s Cherian Thomas and Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi contributed to this story.