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Sino-Indian deals 'flawed', says leading policy expert after China visit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 9:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 9:53am
 

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was flying back from Beijing to New Delhi on Friday he told Indian journalists on the plane that his trip had been a “great success”.

However, a leading Indian expert on China expressed his reservations. D.S. Rajan, director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, a leading think tank of Sino-Indian relations based in the capital of Tamil Nadu, told the South China Morning Post Singh had not achieved everything he wanted during his trip.

While Rajan praised the “spirit of dialogue,” he saw flaws in two deals struck last week: the agreements on better communication on troop movements and on sharing water along the border.

The agreement on border cooperation that the Indian premier negotiated with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang was designed to smooth military tensions at the so-called Line of Actual Control which caused a stand-off in April, when India accused China of intruding into its territory.

We have to engage China.
D.S. Rajan

Rajan, a former director of the cabinet secretariat, said the agreement, which obliges the two Asian giants to inform each other on troop movements, failed to clarify exactly how much information each country must share with other.

“It doesn’t say how many kilometres from the line of actual control,” he said, arguing that Indian movements near the border were not necessarily troop build-ups.

The other agreement aimed at addressing India’s concerns over Chinese dams on the Brahmaputra River failed to include the establishment of a joint mechanism, he said. “It is not to the satisfaction of the Indian side,” he said. “There is no mention of a joint mechanism in the [memorandum of understanding].”

The 2,900km-long river flows from Tibet through the Assam valley and merges into the Ganges River, providing vital water supply to tens of millions of people along the way.

Despite these setbacks in what is widely believed to be the 81-year old premier’s last visit to China ahead of general elections next year, Rajan said Beijing had been willing to assuage Indian concerns over a growing trade imbalance which reached almost US$20 billion (HK$155 billion) last year.

China has suggested setting up industrial parks in India, where red tape has so far prevented Chinese companies from establishing a foothold, Chinese state media reported. Ahead of the visit, India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the country’s foreign investment regulator, suggested such parks could be built in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

As India approaches elections, Rajan said there wouldn’t be a breakthrough deal in the border dispute, but he expected dialogue to continue. “There is no difference between the ruling [party] and the opposition. We have to engage China,” he said.

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