Visit to fuel economic cooperation

Updated: 2013-05-20 08:10

By Ding Qingfen in New Delhi and Li Xiaokun in Beijing (China Daily)

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Visit to fuel economic cooperation

Premier Li Keqiang is welcomed by Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahmed, on his arrival at Palam Airport in New Delhi on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]

Visit to fuel economic cooperation

Premier lands in India on his first overseas journey since taking office

Premier Li Keqiang arrived in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon on his first overseas visit since taking office, accompanied by a large business delegation.

The visit will help link the two huge emerging markets, which together can become an engine of the world economy if they can take advantage of each other's development, analysts have said.

Calling India "an important partner and friend", Li said in his statement released upon arrival that interests between China and India have become further intertwined. Later on Sunday he met with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

The visit came days after China and India peacefully ended a three-week border standoff, which was followed by both countries committing to deepen relations amid the visit to Beijing this month of Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Li is scheduled to meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and give a speech on Beijing's ties with New Delhi. He will also go to the commercial hub Bombay.

Beijing said a basket of cooperation documents will be signed during the visit.

China is India's second-largest trading partner, and India is China's largest trading partner in South Asia. Bilateral trade reached $66.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2015.

Vice-Foreign Minister Song Tao said last week that by choosing India as the first destination of Li's overseas visit, Beijing has shown the high importance it attaches to its relations with its large neighbor.

The visit has become a hot topic in India.

Hindustan Times said in an article titled Let's Dance with the Dragon on May 17 that the "Indian industry looks forward to the visit ... which is expected to deliver significant results, especially as it is the new head's first overseas tour".

"India and China stand at a historic juncture where global affairs are transforming. Innovative cooperation mechanisms, especially in economic engagement, could stimulate a new sustainable partnership within this changed context," the newspaper said.

"While President Xi Jinping chose to visit Russia on his way to the BRICS summit in March, Li chose India to be his first destination abroad to send a message of the commitment of the new leadership to further friendly relations with New Delhi," Press Trust of India wrote on May 13.

Jiang Jingkui, director of the Center of South Asian Studies under Peking University, said economic cooperation between the two neighbors, which together have 40 percent of the world's population, has lagged far behind their potential. If well developed, this will give "a strong impetus" to the world economy, Jiang said.

Sun Shihai, an expert on Indian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said 51 percent of the Indian population are younger than 25 and in 2025 India will have about 130 million extra workers that would be available to the world.

"That will provide an opportunity for China's manufacturing sector troubled by surging labor prices at home," Sun said.

Furthermore, he said, India has had a great impact on China's security and national strategy. "China will by no means ignore such an important emerging economy".

"And it is the same for India," he said, adding that Beijing and New Delhi are fully aware of each other's importance and are committed to the ties despite the intervention of the border issue.

"In the past two decades, India has never attached such great importance to its development," said former Chinese ambassador to India and Pakistan Zhou Gang.

"In that regard, Beijing and New Delhi have a deep, tacit understanding, that they both need a peaceful and stable external environment."

Li will also go to Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany during the nine-day tour, which ends on May 27.

The academy's Sun said Beijing's engagement in South Asian affairs has helped ease relations between India and Pakistan. Madan Regmi, chairman of Nepal's China Study Center, told China News Agency on Saturday that Li's visit to India and Pakistan shows that Beijing is getting closer to the region.

Zhang Yunbi contributed to this story.