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Chinese President to Visit India


Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India, starting Monday (November 20-23), will focus on giving fresh momentum to diplomatic relations and trade ties between the two Asian giants. Ties between the two countries have warmed considerably in recent years, despite lingering territorial disputes and a legacy of political mistrust.

Chinese President Hu Jintao's three-day trip to India will see a bid by both sides to boost their economic ties, and a chance to address old political disputes.

Officials say discussions on a regional trade deal between the world's two most populous countries will be high on the agenda. Bilateral trade has soared from $1 billion a decade ago to more than $19 billion last year, and both countries see massive potential in each other's economies.

Sukh Deo Muni at New Delhi's Observer Research Foundation says trade is an important factor driving the Indian-Chinese relationship.

"Economically, the relations are moving in a much faster way," he said. "Today, we have $20 billion of trade. Five years earlier, no one even imagined that, and both the Chinese and Indian sides see tremendous possibility. More than that, both are interacting in various regional fora."

The visit to India, the first by a Chinese president in a decade, will also seek to inject new confidence in the political relationship, because despite steady improvements in ties, pockets of suspicion linger. The two, which fought a war in 1962, still claim vast swathes of each other's territory along India's northern border.

The sensitivities regarding the border surfaced in the run-up to the Chinese president's visit when New Delhi reacted angrily after Beijing's ambassador reasserted an old Chinese claim to 38,000 square kilometers of territory in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

China's close ties with India's neighbors also fuel a measure of unease in New Delhi, which, for example, has some concerns about Beijing's plans to extend a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with its arch-rival Islamabad. India watches China's military ties with Burma closely, as well.

India has also barred Chinese companies from investing in high-security areas, such as ports.

The head of East Asian studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, Alka Acharya, says the political leadership on both sides needs to build greater trust.

"I see these as two very significant, but contradictory, trends in the current relationship," she said. "You have, on the one hand, a broadening and deepening and widening of the range of contacts and areas of cooperation, and side-by-side you have this very strong sense of mistrust and lack of confidence. How we manage this contradiction is how this relationship eventually is going to evolve."

Political analysts like Muni say the Chinese president and Indian leaders will seek to build bridges and resolve differences.

"There are things, which may be pushed further, for instance, on the border issue," she added. "There may be some momentum given to where we are stuck, and, possibly, to advance the level of negotiations."

Besides New Delhi, President Hu will also visit the financial hub of Mumbai and the historical landmarks in Agra. From India, he will travel to Pakistan for an official visit.

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