The agreement between China and India to set a goal of raising their bilateral trade to $100 billion from the current $60 billion is the very deliberately headline grabbing centerpiece of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh. Though it is Wen’s first visit to India for five years, the two men have met almost a dozen times during that time. So each will be well versed in the contentious border and security issues that come between the two Asian giants and frame their relationship with the other.
For all the conciliatory statements being made, and the open check book diplomacy being deployed by the entourage of 400 Chinese businessmen attending Wen, there has been no substantive progress on the difficult issues. Both sides say that more time is needed to work out their border issues, but they offered no crunchy deadline as they did with trade. A joint communique affirmed no more than that the two countries would “work together to maintain peace and security”. Wen told a business conference in Delhi that “there is enough space in the world for the development of both China and India and there are enough areas for us to co-operate,” but we see little to change our pre-trip assessment of the relationship as a partnership based on mutual mistrust and rivalry.