NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pressed on with a charm offensive in India yesterday, offering support for New Delhi’s bid for a greater role in the United Nations and agreeing on an ambitious target of $100 billion in trade between the rising Asian powers by 2015.
Relations between the world’s two fastest growing major economies are tense, despite the booming trade relationship between them. Nearly 40 years after they fought a war there are still rifts over disputed borders, and suspicion in New Delhi over China’s regional ambitions and its close ties with arch-rival, Pakistan.
But both Wen and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exchanged vows of amity and goodwill, appearing to brush under the carpet a series of differences that have dogged relations for decades.
“I believe with our joint efforts, through the visit, we’ll be able to raise our friendship and cooperation to a high level in the new century,” said Wen, standing alongside Singh at the Indian presidential palace after a formal red-carpet welcome ceremony.
Wen’s visit, the first by a Chinese premier to India in five years, has looked carefully choreographed to improve ties between two countries that between them are home to more than a third of the world’s population.
At least 34 Tibetan protesters were arrested for taking part in anti-China demonstrations in New Delhi yesterday.
Arriving with more than 300 business leaders on Wednesday, Wen said that India and China were not rivals and there was room in the world for both powers to develop.
“There is a trust deficit, a trade deficit but certainly not a charm deficit,” said broadcaster CNN IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose. Singh responded in kind to Wen’s effusive words before they went into a meeting behind closed doors: “A strong partnership between India and China will contribute to long-term, peace, stability, prosperity and development in Asia and the world.”
China’s willingness to increasingly engage with India on key issues such as their dispute over boundaries, as well as free trade talks, could stem from a realisation in Beijing that China needs India’s support in increasingly significant international platforms such as the G20. The two sides said they wanted bilateral trade to cross $100 billion by 2015 from $60 billion in 2010, partly driven by greater access for Indian firms to Chinese markets.