Good roads make friendly neighbours

November 7, 2013

Global Times |
By Ding Gang

Both China and India have drawn each other’s attention with major moves. India has welcomed a remarkable milestone in the development of its space technology by successfully launching its first Mars orbiter, theMangalyaan.Meanwhile, China extended its highway network to the last untouched county, Motuo, located in southeastern Tibet. The road, which took decades to complete, has provided the once isolated plateau with a gateway to the world.

These two accomplishments are enough to make Indians and Chinese feel proud. However, they seem to have caused mutual suspicion instead, and even been misinterpreted by some netizens as measures against each other.

With rapid development in many areas and in particular defense over the last decade and more, China and India have become more suspicious of each other’s intention, which reflects long-term distrust in their bilateral relationship.

Problems in the Sino-Indian relationship are mainly triggered by boundary demarcation. The foremost way to reduce mutual suspicion is to lay down some basic rules in tackling border issues to control frictions and prevent conflicts.

The Border Defense Cooperation Agreement between India and China signed in Beijing last month marked an important step toward this. If New Delhi and Beijing can strictly abide by the pact and conduct frequent dialogues between officials at different levels near the Line of Actual Control, there will be fewer chances of conflicts.

The two nations can then begin considering how to make substantial progress that promotes business and trade in border areas and benefits the general public.

In recent years, Beijing and New Delhi have been engaged in road projects near border regions, and have also made plans to build railways. Mutual suspicion will increase if the highways and railways cannot be connected between the two countries. But if the two can be connected, the entire region can prosper.

Currently, China and India conduct trade mostly by sea. A large bulk of Tibet’s imports from and exports to India has to pass through the port of Tianjin and then be shipped to the harbors of Calcutta.

If the two countries can connect their highways via Nathu La, a mountain pass in the Himalayas, trading cost will drop enormously. Nathu La is located 460 kilometers from Lhasa, and there are several highways from this historical place to northern India, eastern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.

This trade route boasts great potential. The India-China trade volume in 1957 amounted to a peak of 110 million silver dollars at Nathu La Pass, accounting for more than 80 percent of the total bilateral trading volume.

Another route, which extends about 500 kilometers, could connect Tengchong, Yunnan Province, to Ledo in northeastern India via Myitkyina in Myanmar.

Many businessmen from Myanmar have been transporting Chinese goods to India through this passage over recent years, and there are a variety of Chinese-made products in the markets across India-Myanmar border areas.

Interconnections between western China and northeastern India will not only benefit the two countries, but also be conducive to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor that is now being discussed. Plus, it can help shape a critical economic circle to provide more vigor and dynamism to Asia and the whole world.

In addition, the political role of the new economic zone can not afford to be neglected. As complicated conflicts often occur among a number of ethnic minorities and tribal groups there, it will be difficult to push forward political reconciliation if economic development remains sluggish.

Economic growth is the foundation of addressing these problems, and providing real benefits for the people will facilitate the process of negotiations over the border. Investment and ideas that advance China-India economic and trade cooperation are far more important than building army posts and deploying artillery and planes.

The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily. He is now stationed in Brazil 


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