China Keen on Making Major Investments in India: Sitharaman

On a key visit to firm-up the ground for President Xi Jinping's visit to Delhi, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said China has shown keen interest to commit major investments in India besides addressing its concerns over mounting trade deficit.

Sitharaman also travelled by the Chinese Bullet train from Beijing to the port city Tianjin, a distance of 113 km, which it covers in about 30 minutes.

China is keen to market its bullet train in India in competition with Japan.

Briefing the Indian media here after her over two-and-a- half hour talk with her Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng, Sitharaman said expectation are high about large-scale Chinese investments in India which could be announced during Xi's visit, expected in the third week of this month.

"I can safely say that there is lot of interest and keenness" on the part of Chinese side to make Xi's visit a big success, she said.

"As much as we are working, they are also working to have good decisions announced during this high-profile visit."

This is Sitharaman's second visit to Beijing since June when she accompanied Vice President Hamid Ansari. The two sides during her visit then signed an MoU on facilitating Chinese industrial parks in India.

A Chinese delegation is currently visiting several places in India to study the location to set up the first park to manufacture a host of goods to be sold and exported from there.

India invited China to set up several such parks to address the trade deficit, which Indian officials say is averaging USD 35 billion per annum.

According to Indian official figures, Chinese investments in India amounted to only about USD 410 million while China maintains that it is around USD 1.1 billion, mostly in Gujarat, home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Now with Japan announcing its plans to invest about USD 35 billion in the next five years in India, observers say it will be interesting to see how China space out its investments.

"It is encouraging that the Chinese are engaging with us, which is very welcome. That makes your job all the more easier. Given the build up of expectations about this positive engagement can only result in tangible outcomes," she said. 

Besides the parks, India and China are in talks about Chinese investments and expertise in modernising Indian Railways.

Sitharaman said it is up to China to decide about the investment in railways as the government has already announced the FDI policy for railways.

China has the strength of modernising its railways and it is up to it to decide which areas it could invest in, she said.

India wants Chinese investments and expertise to upgrade the existing tracks to increase the speed of the trains up to about 160 km.

Asked whether India is open for bullet trains from China, she said, "I would not close the door but what exactly it is going to be, and will it work out, the railways can work out".

Japan has offered to build bullet train on Mumbai-Ahemedabad route during Modi's current visit.

Officials say China too wants to take up certain sectors to build bullet trains which the Chinese officials say could be cheaper than the Japanese.

She said the spirit of engagement with Chinese officials resembled the one showed during the last visit of Modi to China, as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Modi visited China four times as Chief Minister.

About the trade deficit which was big concern for India in the past, she said there are clear signs of "resolution of difficulties".

"In trade we are looking for greater access and greater facilitation for services like IT," she said.

India is also pressing for greater market access for pharmaceuticals.

These issues are no longer debated but are reaching a stage of resolution, she said. "The solutions are getting closer."

Headway is being made in textiles specially exports of cotton and yarn, which amounts over USD 4 billions.

India is pressing for market access for garments and apparels, she said.

The discussions also focussed on improving the number of Chinese tourists in India. About 100 million Chinese travelled all over the world last year.

India which attracted hardly over a lakh of Chinese tourists last year is looking for major opening.

The two sides also discussed more opening for Bollywood films in China, which permits only about 35 foreign films a year.

India hardly gets a chance to show one film in the lucrative Chinese market.

Sitharaman said Chinese Commerce Minister Gao has appreciated India's stand on the public stock holding of food security at the WTO talks.

The Chinese side understood the public sensibilities of the issue, she said.

The minister stated that Gao clearly understood India's position and recognises many countries other than India has similar stand, she said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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