PM to meet Wen in Hanoi amid rising tensions

PM to meet Wen in Hanoi amid rising tensions

New Delhi: Amid rising tensions between India and China, top leaders of the two countries are to meet next week, aiming to bring ties back on an even keel.

The meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao takes place after Singh’s visit to Japan and Malaysia, where he and his hosts will announce the conclusion of key economic cooperation pacts.

Analysts see these as part of a long-term strategy to circumscribe growing Chinese economic influence in the region.

On the first leg of his three-nation tour from 24-26 October, Singh will reach Tokyo, where he and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will announce the end of talks on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

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It signifies the “economic alignment of two of the largest economies of Asia and would lead to a marked increase in our business and economic ties", foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters.

“CEPA is a win-win proposition," she said. “It covers almost 90% of trade and a vast gamut of services, investment, intellectual property rights, customs and other trade related issues."

The agreement will open “Indian and Japanese markets to both sides besides facilitating the movement of natural persons between the two countries," Rao said.

The Singh-Kan talks will include Japanese involvement in large Indian infrastructure projects, security cooperation, high technology trade, and energy cooperation including renewable and civil nuclear cooperation, she said.

In Malaysia, from 26-28 October, Singh and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak are expected to announce the conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

“There will be clear advantages for our exports both in goods and services," said Lata Reddy, secretary, east, in the ministry of external affairs.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said the pacts could be seen as “a long-term politico-strategic move to counter rising Chinese influence in the region".

“There are concerns (among countries in the region) about Chinese dumping of goods, China not opening up its economy, taking advantage of the loopholes within the international trading system, violating WTO (World Trade Organization) rules on giving subsidies to firms whether it is cheap energy rates or providing raw materials."

A senior government official, who did not want to be named, said India and other East-Asian countries have been warily eyeing the rise of China and its increasing assertiveness, riding on its economic clout. India-China ties have been buffeted by Beijing denying a visa to a senior Indian military officer.

Beijing cited the general’s serving in Kashmir—a disputed region claimed by China’s friend Pakistan—as the reason for refusing the permit.

India was already upset with China for issuing Kashmir residents stapled visas as opposed to those pasted on passports.

Singh and Wen are likely to discuss some of these issues when they meet in Hanoi, on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit on 30 October.

The US and Russia are expected to join the summit—a move India has welcomed, said Rao.