Ties between China and India back on track

INDIAN PM’S VISIT

INDIA and China have come to terms with each other and are starting to link up in many fields.

The two Asian giants were co-operating in medicine, education, culture and trade that were kept on the “back burner” for a long time, Indian Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao said yesterday.

“We have good relations right now and are enhancing our co-operation,” he said.

He was responding to a query on Sino-Indian ties during a 45-minute question-and-answer session that followed his lecture. Questions ranged from those on India’s economic reform to political developments.

Mr Rao noted that such positive developments in bilateral relations came after more than 30 years when both countries fought a bitter war and strained ties ever since.

The Sino-Indian war in 1962 revolved around a border dispute involving 128,000 sq km of territory.

The boundary was based on an arbitrary British delineation drawn in 1914 that ignored topographical and strategic concerns, such as control of mountain passes and water supplies.

Mr Rao said that the border was a thorn in bilateral ties until recently when both sides established a joint working committee.

“We have come to the conclusion that there is no sense in arguing about one issue or having tensions about it,” he said.

He added that the working committee had so far held seven meetings to try and work out a solution acceptable to both sides.

India had also concluded an agreement with China to ensure peace and stability in the border area, he said.

Reports have indicated that the two countries will be exploring possibilities to open border trading across their 3,800 km disputed frontier.

Besides working to resolve this dispute, the world’s two populous nations could also co-operate in agriculture and trade. Sino-Indian trade totalled US$675 million (S$1 billion) last year, up from US$264 million three years ago.

Both countries signed a pact on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion during the visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in July this year.

Asked whether India would be able to attract the same levels of foreign investments as China has done recently, he replied: “After a long time, we are friendly with China. Now, don’t try and create a rivalry”.

He said that both countries would play a role along with the other countries in the region to ensure continued economic growth and security.

“Indeed for the good of all, that is how it should be,” he said. “That’s how the Asian civilisations have come up. They believe in a blend of the individual and the collective.”

Replying to a question on India’s economic reform, Mr Rao said that India had opened up its economy. “It is a fact of life and we cannot wish it away,” he said.

“We have done it deliberately after taking the pros and cons into account. The word ‘multinational’ is no longer a bad word in India.”

He assured foreign investors that India’s bureaucracy would not put off investors.

Asked if much democracy and freedom would impair political stability and hence economic growth and development, he said: “The answer is no.”

“In fact, I have said often that the remedy for the ills of democracy is more democracy, not less,” he said.

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