On 17 September 2014, breaking from protocol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unrolled a grand welcome for Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad, setting the stage for their Summit in Delhi, on 18 September.
On his first visit to India a year after he took over as President, the Chinese leader landed in Ahmedabad to be taken around by Mr Modi on a whirlwind business-cum-leisure trip, topped by a lavish Gujarati vegetarian dinner on the picturesque Sabarmati river front.
There was bonhomie between the two leaders even as there were reports of incursions by Chinese army and civilians in Ladakh region, indicative of the tough task ahead of the two sides in resolving the vexed boundary issue.
Both oversaw the signing of MoUs making a Guangzhou and Ahmedabad as sister cities, setting up of industrial parks in Gujarat and an agreement between Guangdong province and the Gujarat government for development of cultural and social ties between the two provinces.
The Chineses President and his wife, Ms Peng Liyuan, also visited the tranquil Sabarmati Ashram, where President Xi also ran the charkha, the spinning wheel Mahatma Gandhi used to popularise Khadi. He was presented with Khadi garlands by the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister og Gujarat on arrival at the Ashram.
A standoff between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the Ladakh plateau overshadowed the Summit meeting in New Delhi, with a $20 billion investment pledge eclipsed by robust comments from Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the dispute.
“I raised our serious concern over repeated incidents along the border,” said a stern Mr Modi, with Mr Xi sitting to his right.
Raising hopes for a new push to resolve their territorial differences, Mr Modi called for an early border settlement with China. The two sides have held 17 rounds of border talks since the early 1990s without making significant progress.
In his comments, President Xi played down the tensions and agreed with Mr Modi that they should work to settle the border question, using language China has used in the past.
“Sometimes there might be certain incidents, but the two sides are fully capable of acting promptly to effectively manage the situation,” said President Xi.
Despite the tension, the two sides were able to agree on investments aimed at significantly upgrading their commercial relationship, with China pledging $20 billion over the next five years for industrial parks and infrastructure including railway technology. That contrasts with just $400 million in Chinese investment in India over the last 14 years. President Xi also promised more access for India’s pharmaceutical, farming and fuel products to China.
India is keen on Chinese investment to help balance $65 billion in annual trade that is heavily tilted in China’s favour.
A key pact on trade and economic cooperation will provide for USD 20 billion Chinese investment in India over a period of five years. The agreement lays down a medium term roadmap for promoting balanced and sustainable development of economic and trade relations.
Another MoU will facilitate the annual Kailash Manasarovar Yatra by Indian pilgrims through Nathula Pass in Sikkim, in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand. The route through Nathula will augment the capacity and reduce the hardship and journey time enabling many more pilgrims, in particular the elderly, to undertake the Yatra.
China has also agreed to strengthen India’s Railways network and two pacts were inked aiming at increasing speed of trains, studying feasibility of cooperation in high-speed railways and redevelopment of railway stations.
A separate pact on Audio-Visual co-production between the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television was also signed to enable producers from both countries to get an opportunity to pool their creative, artistic, technical, financial and marketing resources to co-produce films.
The two sides also decided to enhance cooperation in matters related to custom administration and inked a pact that will help strengthening cooperation to fight trans-border economic crimes and custom offences through sharing of information. It would also facilitate trade through enhanced customs cooperation.
A pact was inked between Indian Space Research Organisation and China National Space Administration on cooperation in the peaceful use of space, including research and development of scientific experiment, remote sensing and communications satellites.
Another MOU was signed to foster long-term collaboration between various cultural institutions of the two countries. These institutions include museums, archaeological organisations and performing art centres.
Both sides also agreed to carry out cooperation in fields of drug standards, traditional medicine and drug testing. A pact was inked in this regard.
Another agreement was signed to establish Sister City relationship between Mumbai and Shanghai.It will enhance people-to-people exchanges fostering greater mutual understanding.
China has also agreed to participate in the New Delhi World Book Fair 2016 as the Guest of Honour Country.
The “Five year Trade and Economic Development Plan” lays down a medium term roadmap for promoting balanced and sustainable development of economic and trade relations between China and India, on the principle of equality and mutual benefit.
The leaders also agreed to begin talks on cooperating in the nuclear power industry and Mr Xi said China would support India becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation—a regional security body whose largest members are China and Russia. He also supported India’s aspiration to play a greater role at the United Nations, including on the Security Council.