Build quickly on the Wuhan spirit

This handout photograph released by India's Press Information Bureau (PIB) on April 28, 2018 shows India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping looking on in a house boat, at East Lake, in Wuhan. Chinese President Xi Jinping a

In their first interaction after the ‘informal summit’ in late April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping signalled that the co-operative spirit on display at Wuhan remains very much alive. At a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) summit at Qingdao in China, New Delhi and Beijing took some steps forward to address issues of concern to the two countries. One issue was the Brahmaputra river hydrological data. China had suspended sharing this data with India in the wake of the Doklam crisis last year. At Qingdao, China agreed to resume sharing of hydrological data on the Brahmaputra during the flood season and when the water-level exceeds mutually agreed levels during the non-flood months. Provision of such data will help India’s preparedness to deal with flooding of the Brahmaputra river. Another issue of concern for Delhi has been the ballooning trade deficit between India and China. According to India’s Ministry of Commerce, this deficit has increased from $16 billion in 2007-08 to 51 billion in 2016-17. India has repeatedly raised this issue with China, including at the Wuhan summit. Beijing has finally responded. It has agreed to import non-Basmati rice from India. This is a beginning towards narrowing the trade deficit to some extent.

Of the SCO members, India is the only country that is opposed to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Speaking at the summit, Prime Minister Modi stressed that India was supportive of connectivity projects and is a part of several such initiatives, including the International North-South Transport Corridor project. However, he asserted that Delhi will stay away from initiatives that undermine India’s sovereignty.

At the Wuhan summit, India and China announced their decision to co-operate on a joint economic project in Afghanistan. Such a project would help build trust between the two countries. However, little has been heard on this since then. Delhi and Beijing have kept alive the Wuhan spirit, but it is important that they keep up the momentum generated at that summit. Some years ago, too, India and China had mooted working on a joint project in Afghanistan but that did not take off. It would be a pity if the present plan meets a similar fate. Given the solid work it has put in on the ground in Afghanistan, India should take the initiative to explore options and ideas for the joint economic project. The summits at Wuhan and Qingdao have provided a strong foundation on which India and China have reset their relations. They must follow up on promises made at these summits to ensure that the reset survives.

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Build quickly on the Wuhan spirit

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