China and India can work together for the benefit of all

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, 5:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, 5:01am

As neighbours and the world's two most populous nations, China and India have every reason to work together. Their combined resources and talents have the potential to drive regional and global growth through the revived Silk Road. The right tone was set during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first official visit, with encouraging words expressed along with the US$22 billion in deals struck. There are obstacles, a border dispute the most glaring, but leaders on both sides have expressed a willingness to find solutions so that the faded "Chindia" dream can be revitalised.

Xi Jinping put a friendly stamp on Modi's three-day trip by breaking with protocol and meeting him in his hometown, Xian, rather than Beijing. He was reciprocating the Indian leader's unusual decision when the president went to India last September of greeting him in his home state, Gujarat. Apart from the finance, ports and renewable energy deals signed, the nations agreed in talks in Beijing to a series of pacts on cooperation and resolved to take a proactive approach towards the border dispute.

Modi envisages India taking over China's mantle as the world's workshop and is counting on Chinese firms to provide investment and build much-needed infrastructure. With trade ballooning to US$66 billion last year from US$3 billion in 2000, a strong foundation for relations is being put in place. But the trade is sharply imbalanced in China's favour and Chinese investment is a mere US$500 million. Transportation links between the two are also rudimentary and trust between Chinese and Indians low. There is also the sticking point of Pakistan being China's friend, but India's foe.

The countries have found common ground in building alternatives to Western-dominated financial institutions through the BRICS group of leading emerging market economies, and China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China's "one belt, one road" initiative will bring them closer. Trust and cooperation will make tackling contentious issues easier. That is good for both nations, the region and the world.