India Today's Written Interview with Premier Li Keqiang
2015/05/12

1. Premier Li, you chose India as your first destination for an overseas visit after taking over as Premier, visiting in May 2013. What was behind your choice? Have you been satisfied with how relations have developed since your visit?

Two years ago, I visited India as the first stop of my first overseas trip as Premier. That visit is still fresh in my memory. China and India are the two largest developing countries in the world and two most vibrant emerging markets. A growing China-India relationship is not only related to the welfare of the 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians but also crucial to the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world at large. During my visit, Indian leaders and I agreed that our two countries should join hands to achieve common development, foster new highlights in Asian cooperation and create a new engine for the world economy.

A new Indian government was formed after last year's general election. I am glad to see that China-India relations and practical cooperation have maintained sound growth momentum and made fresh progress. This shows that the development of China-India relations is blessed with strong consensus and profound popular support among various sectors of the two countries.

Both China and India have a historical mission to grow economy, deepen reform and improve people's living standards. Moving steadily forward along the path identified by the leaders of the two sides, China-India relations enjoy historical opportunities for substantial enhancement. I expect that Prime Minister Modi's upcoming visit to China will deepen our strategic and cooperative partnership and serve the peaceful, cooperative and inclusive development of both our countries.

2. What has been your impression of Prime Minister Modi's first year in office since his election victory?

In his first year in office, Prime Minister Modi has demonstrated his resolve and courage to advance reform and development. The Indian economy has gathered momentum significantly. The international community has been following closely the developments and changes of India over the past year. International investors have renewed their focus on "India opportunity" and expressed optimism in India's growth prospects. I want to offer my congratulations to Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government.

China is glad for India over its development achievements. The Indian economy is shifting to a higher growth rate while the Chinese economy is transforming and upgrading at a faster pace. Our two countries, with similar development visions and great economic complementarity, can see opportunities in each other's development. China is ready to work with India to align our development strategies, reinforce political trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation and progress together through mutual learning and assistance.

3. On the economic front, over the past few years, relations have been slow to take off in many respects. Trade has been dominated by Indian exports of resources and Chinese exports of machinery. Mutual investments, and a closer economic engagement beyond buying and selling, have moved slowly. What do you see as the reason for this?

The economic relations between China and India cover a wide spectrum of areas. In addition to traditional trade in goods, we have trade in services, tourism, investment and finance. Let me give you some examples. Investment by Chinese businesses in India is now on a fast track of growth. Cooperation between the two sides on railway and industrial parks, among others, is taking shape with a broad prospect. As far as I know, 10 Indian banks have set up 13 branches in China, outnumbering those set up by their Chinese counterparts in India by a big margin. Indian companies have wide-ranging investment in China, including software, pharmaceuticals, higher education, iron and steel, chemical industry and clean energy. Therefore, we do not see trade in goods as the sole criterion in assessing our economic relations.

Even if we just look at trade in goods, despite some decline in bilateral trade in the couple of years after the international financial crisis, the trade volume started to pick up last year. It grew by 7.8% year on year and reached US$70.6 billion. China understands and takes seriously India's concerns over the balance of trade. We are ready to continue to take measures to expand imports from India that are marketable in China and seek to find balance in a wider range of areas including trade in goods, trade in services, investment, science and technology and tourism. We hope, in such a way, we can achieve dynamic balance and sustainable growth in our bilateral trade.

As I see it, for China and India, two countries with a combined population of 2.5 billion, our cooperation falls far short of reaching its due scale or level. Cooperation between China and India is just like a huge treasurehouse waiting to be discovered. We have great hopes and expectations. During Prime Minister Modi's visit, he and I will further exchange views on deepening practical cooperation between our two countries. I am sure that with our joint efforts, our economic relations will soon get aboard the high-speed train, deliver benefits to our peoples and give a strong boost to our respective national rejuvenation efforts.

4. When President Xi Jinping visited India in September, both sides agreed to set up two industrial parks for Chinese companies, focusing on power companies and automobiles. In your opinion, do you think major Chinese companies will in the future see India as not just a market for export, but as a manufacturing destination as well? Do you see the changes taking place in China on the economic front having an impact on the relationship? And what do you think these industrial parks can achieve going forward?

During his visit to India, President Xi Jinping reached important agreement with Indian leaders on industrial park cooperation in India. China and India are the world's major manufacturer and service provider respectively. Each with distinctive features, the two economies have a lot to offer each other. At the moment, the Chinese economy is moving toward a medium-to-high level with efforts to maintain a medium-to-high speed of growth. We will deepen reform in an all-round way and further open up to the outside. China's overseas investment in the next five years will reach US$500 billion. The Make-in-India initiative and other programs rolled out by the Indian government are aimed at promoting reform and innovation, raising the manufacturing level and attracting more foreign investment. Under such circumstances, deepening practical cooperation is all the more relevant and promising for both sides.

Chinese companies have decided to set up two industrial parks in India, a major step to deepen practical cooperation between the two countries. With a huge market and rich human resources, India has all the conditions to become a big manufacturing country. I hope that India will provide more preferential policies and investment facilitations to Chinese businesses, help them address difficulties and inconveniences they may encounter so that the industrial parks can deliver tangible benefits at an earlier date as flagship projects in China-India practical cooperation. We also welcome greater presence of Indian companies in China. I am confident that as we make progress in our cooperation in industrial parks and investment, China and India will surely have greater success in win-win cooperation and common prosperity.

5. The Chinese government has put forward the Belt and Road Initiative over the past year, and the proposal to build the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor was raised during your visit to India. In what way does China want to work with India under the Belt and Road framework? More generally, what impact do you think the Belt and Road Initiative will have in terms of how China is viewed in the region?

China and India are the two biggest countries in Asia and both are countries of major significance in the region. We shoulder the responsibility to work together to promote cooperation and prosperity of the region at large. That is why during my visit to India in 2013, I raised together with the Indian side the initiative of building a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM), a proposal that received positive response from Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Belt and Road Initiative as well as the BCIM are designed to facilitate common development instead of the self-interests of China only.

At present, China-India cooperation in railway, industrial parks and other fields is making solid progress. A joint working group for the BCIM has been set up and is running well. India was among the first group of prospective founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and has played host to the second Chief Negotiators' Meeting of the AIIB. That speaks strongly to the fact that China and India are indeed each other's strategic cooperation partner, whether at the bilateral or regional level. China is open to India's views and suggestions regarding the Belt and Road Initiative. China will fully respect and accommodate India's concerns, and will work with India to seek the convergence of interests between the two countries, explore a path of win-win cooperation and jointly promote development and prosperity in the region.

6. How do you view relations with India going forward? Over the past two decades, the two sides have sought to follow the framework suggested by Deng Xiaoping of shelving disputes and pushing ties in other areas. How do you evaluate how successful this approach has been? With rapid growth of the relations between the two countries, do you think the time has come for a more proactive approach to solve pending disputes such as the boundary question, once and for all?

The existence of different views between neighbors on certain issues is just natural. What I want to stress is that for China and India, friendship and cooperation make the defining feature of bilateral relations. I see the need and desire for cooperation on both sides, and I believe our common interests far outweigh our disagreements.

Over the years, the leaders of our two countries have formed an important piece of agreement. That is, the two countries need to upgrade bilateral relations at all levels and in all areas while addressing differences through negotiations and peaceful means in a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable manner, and that differences between the two countries should not be allowed to affect the overall growth of bilateral relations. Such agreement provides the basis underpinning long-term and steady growth of China-India relations. It is fair to say that China and India have developed a unique relationship that allows us to grow our friendship and cooperation while seeking proper settlement to our differences.

The boundary question is left over from history, and is a difficult question in bilateral relations. To settle the question as early as possible is the historical responsibility that falls on both governments; it also represents the shared aspiration of the two peoples. Thanks to joint efforts, positive progress has been made in boundary negotiations over the past 30 years and more. The two sides have formulated a road map for the settlement of the boundary question, signed an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles and reached the important agreement on a package settlement through making meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments. Meanwhile, the border areas have maintained peace and stability on the whole. This is important accomplishment for both sides. We should build on what has been achieved and continue to work unremittingly to move forward the boundary negotiation process, with a view to finding a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. Pending that, the two sides need to work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, so that we could foster an enabling environment for the ultimate settlement of the boundary question and promote overall growth of bilateral relations.

Mr. Deng Xiaoping once observed that only when China and India became developed could there be a genuine Asian Century. To maintain enduring and stable growth of China-India relations serves the fundamental interests of the 2.5 billion Chinese and Indian people in the long run. It is also good for Asia and the world at large. I believe, with joint efforts by the leadership, governments and people of vision in both countries, China and India will continue to make progress in our respective pursuit of national rejuvenation and together embrace an early arrival of the Asian Century.

7. Premier Li, I would like your thoughts on how you see the evolving global order. China has often spoken of the need for multipolarity. How much concurrence is there between China and India on this? On the reform of international institutions such as the United Nations, would China support a greater role for India, including as a permanent member on an expanded United Nations Security Council?

The move toward multipolarity is a prevailing trend in today's world. Since the turn of the century, emerging markets and developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have grown in international standing, moving the balance of power toward greater equilibrium. China and India are two major forces in shaping a multipolar world as well as two engines driving economic growth in Asia and the world. Both being representatives of emerging markets and developing countries, China and India have engaged in sound coordination and cooperation in global affairs, where we face similar challenges and share extensive common interests. China-India relations have gone far beyond the bilateral scope and assumed regional and global significance.

The population of China and India combined exceeds one third of the world's total. When we speak with one voice, the world will listen; when we join hands, the world will pay attention. While driving the economic growth of Asia and the world through our own development, China and India may continue to strengthen cooperation under multilateral frameworks, including in the United Nations, BRICS, G20 and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This way, we could make the international order more just and reasonable and uphold the common interests of our two countries and the vast number of developing countries as a whole.

India, a major Asian country with global influence and an important member of BRICS, plays a significant role in ensuring stability and prosperity in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific. China attaches great importance to India's role as a major developing country in international affairs and supports India's aspiration to play a bigger role in the United Nations, including in the UN Security Council.

8. I would like your thoughts on how you see China and India working together in the region. China has recently witnessed a number of terror attacks. Given India's long expressed concern on the spread of terrorism, in what ways do you think the two countries could work together?

China is the largest neighbor for countries in South Asia, and peace and stability in South Asia bears on China's stability and development. China and India have shared interests in maintaining peace and stability and promoting development and prosperity in South Asia. China and India have had good communication and coordination in supporting peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan and assisting disaster relief and reconstruction efforts in Nepal. Our two countries may well enhance cooperation based on our respective strengths to inject more positive energy to efforts upholding peace, stability and development in the region.

Terrorism, whose root causes are complex, is a common enemy of mankind. To settle the problem takes long and arduous efforts. It requires solidarity and stronger cooperation among the international community to eradicate terrorism and safeguard security and stability in the region and the world. China and India, having both suffered from the menace of terrorism, share common interests and face similar challenges in fighting terrorism. China stands ready to deepen counterterrorism cooperation with India to better safeguard the development and security interests of our two countries.

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