05/18/2015, 00.00
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Deals worth US$ 22 billion do not end the China-India rivalry

Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping sign 26 economic agreements during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing. Analysts and experts downplay Chinese state media’s positive spin. The Himalayan region, the new Silk Road and the Indian Ocean are still the basis of structural “problems and mistrust between both sides”.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China and India have made peace and relations between the two countries have entered a new era, this according to China's state-run media, following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart, Li Keqiang. However, analysts in both India and China (as well as Taiwan) have injected a note of caution. Despite megadeals, the two countries remain rivals, vying for influence in the region.

During the three-day visit (14-16 May), China and India signed 26 business deals worth more than US billion in areas including renewable energy, ports, financing and industrial parks, an Indian embassy official said today.

As expected, Modi encouraged big Chinese companies to invest in India, particularly in manufacturing and infrastructure. “You are the ‘factory of the world’ whereas we are the ‘back office of the world’,” he said.

At a press conference, the Indian leader said that during his talks with China's leaders the two nations should take a proactive approach to solving their festering border dispute in the Himalayas. The two countries went to war over the issue in 1962.

Modi appeared aware of the mistrust between the two sides when he told reporters in Beijing on Friday that during his talks with Premier Li Keqiang he had asked China to "reconsider its approach" on some of issues that were hampering ties.

Modi did not clearly identify what sort of approach he meant, but many Chinese analysts have speculated that India was wary of China's attempts to increase its influence around the Indian Ocean and in Europe through its "New Silk Road" trade initiatives.

India remains suspicious of China because of its strong and long-standing ties with its arch-rival Pakistan, analysts said.

"New Delhi considers it a strategy to 'encircle' India or undermine India's strategic superiority in the subcontinent," said Chen Mumin, the director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in South Asia and the Middle East at National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan.

Yet, despite Indian misgivings, “China will never give up its interests in strengthening relations with other South Asian countries because China needs access to the Indian Ocean, which is important for maintaining energy security."

For Chen, Modi's trip boosted the two leaders' popularity in China and India with its positive message about future ties between the two countries, but there could be no hiding the two nations' rivalry in the region. "The problems and mistrust between both sides are structural," Chen said.

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