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Chinese Premier Visits India To Discuss Complex Relationship

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao writes an India-China friendship message during a visit to a school in New Delhi, India, 15 Dec. 2010.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao writes an India-China friendship message during a visit to a school in New Delhi, India, 15 Dec. 2010.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is on a three-day visit to New Delhi for a series of meetings with India's top leaders. The two rising Asian powers insist the world is big enough for both of them to prosper - but negotiations over sensitive security issues still lie before them.

Wen arrived here vowing to sign $16 billion worth of economic deals with India. His scheduled visit is aimed at strengthening understanding between the two neighbors, both of which are rapidly assuming superpower status on the world stage.

In a speech to business leaders, Wen rejected the idea that India and China have conflicting interests. He said the fast economic growth of India and China has been an important engine for the world economy, but said he does not agree with the view that the two countries are rivals. China and India are partners for cooperation, he said, and there is enough space in the world for the development of both countries.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao echoed those sentiments in statements previewing the Chinese summit. "I believe that neither of us has the luxury of seeing each other in purely antagonistic terms."

China is India's biggest trade partner in a two-way relationship worth $60 billion a year. However, Sujit Dutta, a scholar at Delhi's Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, said the two have a shaky relationship in certain areas.

"It's less than rivalry, more than friendly competition," said Dutta. "It's a status quo of a type, which is not very stable."

For decades, China has claimed India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, labeling it "South Tibet." Indian authorities describe the India-China border in that region as peaceful, but allow virtually no foreign correspondent visits to the area. The two countries hope to strengthen measures to defuse conflict along their respective line of control.

Delhi also is concerned about China's plans to build dams along portions of a river it controls upstream from Arunachal, which India calls the Brahmaputra. India is watching closely to ensure China does not divert the supply of water upon which millions of Indians depend.

Beijing has been issuing stapled paper visas to travelers from Indian-administered Kashmir, while providing the more customary visa stamps to travelers from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Rao said India will seek to change that policy.

"We believe that the India-China relationship will grow even stronger as China show more sensitivity on core issues that impinge on our sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Rao.

Meanwhile, several hundred supporters of Tibetan independence protested in the streets of Delhi as the Chinese premier arrived, shouting "Wen Jiabao go back." The protesters demand Tibetan leaders be involved in any border negotiations between India and China. Beijing views India's hosting of the Tibetan exile community and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as one of the strongest irritants in the two countries' relationship.

Premier Wen is scheduled to be in India until Friday, when he plans to depart for Pakistan.