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August 15, 2011

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Populous nations progress together

AS the two most populous countries in the world, China and India have several things in common -- including current growth. Yao Minji speaks to the consul general of India in Shanghai to find out more about business relations between the two massive Asian nations.

An exhibition about the Chinese trips of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the first Asian recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is currently touring India. Launched in July in New Delhi, the exhibition will have its final showing in Shanghai after finishing the Indian tour.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Tagore's birth, the exhibition illustrates the great poet's three visits to China in 1924 and 1929 with more than 120 pictures.

Tagore has always played a significant role in terms of cultural exchange in the growing relations between the two most populous countries in the world, which reached its 61st year this April. It is also the year of the India-China Exchange, as declared by leaders from the two nations when Premier Wen Jiabao visited India last December.

"We have had a very active and spectacular year in 2010, especially due to the success of World Expo 2010 Shanghai. The India Pavilion received 5.39 million visitors and we had a variety of activities including food festivals, art performances, exhibitions, film festivals, among many more, all over the country," says Riva Ganguly Das, consul general of India in Shanghai.

"And in 2011, we expect our bilateral relations to strengthen further. I hope that this year will be as active as last year."

In 2010, the Sino-Indian total trade went far beyond the target of US$60 billion and stood at US$61.74 billion, recording an increase of more than 42 percent from a year earlier. More than one-third of this, a value of US$21.469 billion and up by 42.38 percent from 2009, has been made in the eastern China region comprising of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces that the Shanghai office covers.

As for this year, a number of visits, including business delegations representing the auto component sector and pharmaceuticals, have already taken place, with many more to come. A high-level IT delegation is next on the schedule.

The most updated bilateral trade value, for January to May this year, stood at US$29.63 billion, up 17 percent from the same period in 2010. It also indicates an increase of the trade value at the end of the year.

"We hope that trade will increase, and we will be able to both diversify our export basket and export more value-added products to China. At present, iron ore, cotton and fabric, copper and organic chemicals dominate the Indian export basket. We are a leading exporter of diamonds to China, and the gem and jewelry sector is one we hope to develop in the future," says the consul general.

Currently, about 120 Indian companies and financial institutions are based in the eastern China region, covering a diversity of sectors including IT, IT training, business process outsourcing, engineering, automobile and auto ancillaries, chemical and pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, textiles, shipping and logistics, and tea and beverages.

About 10 Indian companies have also set up manufacturing units in the region, with six Indian banks, and four public sector undertakings including Air India present in Shanghai. Air India operates four weekly flights from Shanghai to Delhi and Mumbai.

A large number of Indian trading firms are also based in the region and involved in sourcing raw material and semi-finished products from China.

The consul general especially looks forward to the future development of India's pharmaceuticals sector in China and particularly in this region. Currently, India produces more than 20 percent of the world's generics.

"We feel we can bring a lot to China's pharmaceutical sector thanks to our breadth of experience in the field and strong brand presence. Similarly for engineering goods, we can offer top quality products at competitive prices. In the IT sphere, it goes without saying that India is the recognized global leader. Indian IT services can give Chinese companies an edge in the global market," she explains.

"We want to develop a stronger presence in all these sectors, but we do have certain market access concerns. We will continue to undertake efforts to brand India in this region so that there is better appreciation of the trade and commercial opportunities that India offers."

She also suggests Indian companies, who wish to explore the Chinese market, to pay attention to attractive incentives in different Chinese cities.

And for Chinese companies interested in extending to India, she advises that they should seize the growing opportunities available there.

"India's infrastructure sector is likely to open up US$1 trillion of opportunities for global investors over the next five years. This means numerous opportunities for Chinese companies, especially those in construction and related areas. We are very encouraged by the growing interest of Chinese companies in India," she explains.

For nearly 4,000 Indians in Shanghai, and many more Chinese who are interested in India and Indian culture, a series of cultural activities, mainly surrounding the commemoration of Tagore, has been well planned.

During his three visits to China, the great writer not only traveled to numerous cities including Shanghai, Nanjing, Jinan, Hangzhou and Beijing, but also inspired countless Chinese poets and intellectuals.

The Indian President Pratibha Patil brought a bronze bust of Tagore to Shanghai as a gift during a presidential visit last year. It now stands at the crossing of Maoming and Nanchang roads, where the poet once was invited to his Chinese writer friend's home.

Celebrations in Shanghai started in early May at the bust. Tagore International School from New Delhi and Jinyuan High School in Shanghai also collaborated to pay tribute to the great writer with exhibitions, performances and recitals of his poems.


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