Mon, Sep 15, 2014 - Page 5 News List

China on track to develop Indian railways as Xi visits

Reuters, NEW DELHI and BEIJING

China will pledge to invest billions of dollars in India’s rail network during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) this week, bringing more than diplomatic nicety to the neighbors’ first summit since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May.

The leaders of Asia’s three biggest economies — China, India and Japan — have crisscrossed the region this month, lobbying for strategic influence, building defense ties and seeking new business opportunities.

Beijing’s bid to ramp up commercial ties in India comes despite a territorial dispute that has flared anew in recent years, raising concerns in New Delhi, where memories of a humiliating border war defeat in 1962 run deep.

It follows a pledge by Japan to invest US$35 billion in India over the next five years — including the introduction of bullet trains — and a drive to deepen security ties during talks earlier this month between Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

India and China are expected to sign a pact that will open the way for Chinese participation in new rail tracks, automated signaling for faster trains and modern stations that India’s British-built rail system desperately needs, having barely added 11,000km of track in the 67 years since independence.

China, which added 14,000km of track in the five years to 2011, is also pushing for a share of the lucrative high-speed train market in India, which it says would be cheaper than Japanese proposals.

“India has a strong, real desire to increase its cooperation with China and other countries to perfect and develop its rail system, and has concrete cooperation ideas,” Assistant Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Jianchao (劉建超) told reporters ahead of Xi’s trip. “India is considering building high-speed railways, and China has a positive attitude toward this.”

China’s consul general in Mumbai told the Times of India last week that Chinese investment in the modernization of India’s railways could eventually touch US$50 billion.

Beijing is looking to invest another US$50 billion in building India’s ports, roads and a project to link rivers, part of an infrastructure push that Modi has said is his top priority to crank up growth.

Chinese investment will also help narrow a trade deficit with India that hit US$31 billion last year.

Beijing is seeking to recycle some of its vast export surpluses into foreign investment in resources and infrastructure in South Asia to feed its industrial machine.

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