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8 Feb, 2024 12:45

India-China trade hits record high – envoy

Transactions between the two Asian countries are growing despite diplomatic friction
India-China trade hits record high – envoy

Trade between India and China has hit a historic high of $136.2 billion, Beijing’s envoy stated at a function in New Delhi on Wednesday, suggesting that over the past year, relations between the neighboring states have gained “positive momentum.” 

Bilateral trade grew by just 1.5% – it stood at $135.9 billion in 2022, when New Delhi’s trade deficit with Beijing exceeded $100 billion. Last year, however, Indian exports to China increased by 6%, the envoy noted. “Over the past year, China-India relations have shown a positive momentum of improvement. The two sides maintained high-level communications and interactions,” Jia stated at a Chinese New Year carnival in New Delhi.

Regarding the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of last year’s BRICS summit, Jia said that the leaders reached an “important consensus” on stabilizing bilateral ties, adding that Beijing supported New Delhi’s presidency of both the G20 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The diplomat also expressed hope for more investment and travel between the countries, “freely and conveniently.” Direct flights between the two nations have been halted ever since the Covid-19 outbreak.

New Delhi and Beijing have been locked in a long-standing confrontation that mainly stems from unresolved border disputes. Tensions escalated in 2020 when skirmishes in eastern Ladakh led to casualties on both sides, prompting New Delhi to place restrictions on trade and investment with China. In the ensuing years, the two sides have engaged in extensive diplomatic and military talks despite continuing tensions.

Last year, the two sides held the 20th round of corps commander-level talks as part of ongoing efforts towards disengagement and de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control, though without any clear indication of a breakthrough. Ma Jia has insisted that neither China nor India desires conflict over the issue and that the two sides “have to talk.” “We do not invite any other (country), especially from other regions, to interfere in this bilateral dispute,” she said in an interview with The Hindu last year.

However, New Delhi sees Beijing’s increasing influence in South Asia as a cause for concern. Most recently, tensions have grown due to the Maldives’ embrace of China amid growing friction with India. New Delhi is also alarmed by Beijing’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean as it believes Chinese ‘research vessels’ can also be used for spying. Commenting on the fallout with the Maldives, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar recently said that New Delhi should not be afraid of competitive politics and should try to outdo Beijing when engaging with countries in its neighborhood. 

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