On the first day of his maiden visit to India, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, oversaw the signing of three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between his country and the Gujarat government for cooperation in various sectors. Meanwhile in New Delhi, companies from the two countries signed business deals worth $ 3.4 billion.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who welcomed Xi in his home state, pulled out all stops to make the Chinese President’s three-day visit a grand one. The preparations were elaborate — from a guided tour of Sabarmati Ashram to a riverside dinner and giant billboards in Chinese, Gujarati and English dotting Ahmedabad.
The city was decked up and scrubbed ahead of the visit, beginning on a day that also happened to be Modi’s 64th birthday. Tight security was put in place by the Gujarat police, with help from central security agencies.
The two leaders will again meet in New Delhi on Thursday for formal talks.
On Wednesday, even as Modi and Xi savoured authentic Gujarati cuisine on the banks of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, companies from their two countries sealed business deals worth $ 3.43 billion in New Delhi. A $ 2.6-billion agreement was signed between IndiGo Airlines and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China for leasing and financing of 30 aircraft. Reliance Communications signed two MoUs, worth around $ 150 million each, with Chinese telecom firms ZTE and Huawei Technologies, for equipment and expansion of RCom’s 2G and 3G network.
“These agreements are an effort by our companies to address the issue of trade deficit. Besides, with our expertise in infrastructure development, China wants to cooperate with India in developing its infrastructure,” Wang Hejun, economic counsellor of the Chinese Embassy said in the national capital.
China will also develop and upgrade the existing 640-km railway line running from Bangalore to Mysore through Chennai. Wang said the Chinese government was in talks with Air India to sign an agreement worth $ 2 billion for leasing and financing of aircraft.
In the financial services sector, state-owned Bank of China is also expected to open a bank branch in Mumbai. Besides, China is also planning to offer credit lines worth billions of dollars through the EXIM Bank of India.
Xi, who, along with wife Peng Liyuan, arrived at the Ahmedabad airport from Sri Lanka around 2.30 pm, was received by Gujarat Governor O P Kohli and Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.
He was given a glimpse of Gujarat’s traditional folk dance at the airport and accorded a police guard of honour before he left for his hotel to signing of the MoUs, meant to push economic and cultural ties. He was welcomed at the hotel by Modi, along with hundreds of delegation members from both countries.
After a 30-minute meeting with the Chinese President over various issues, Prime Minister Modi guided him to a show exhibiting the centuries-old Buddhist heritage of Gujarat -through photographs of Buddhist relics and stupas found in Modi’s birth place, Vadnagar. Cooperation between India and China on building a Buddhist tourism circuit in Gujarat is also likely to be discussed.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the external affairs ministry, however, said Wednesday’s meeting was only a courtesy one and that formal talks between the two leaders will take place in the national capital on Thursday. “This is just a get-together. No formal talks were held. The prime minister welcomed him (the Chinese President) as his guest. He appreciated Xi’s coming to Ahmedabad and thanked him for it.
Later in the day, the two leaders oversaw signing of MoUs between China and Gujarat. Under the first, signed between the Industrial Extension Bureau (iNDEXTb), the nodal agency for investment promotion in Gujarat and China Development Bank (CBD), iNDEXTb will assist Chinese investors in obtaining the required clearances and creating infrastructure facilities in the state’s industrial parks. The Gujarat government expects this MoU to help promote domestic industry, as local companies will get the opportunity to become suppliers to the Chinese manufacturing units. It will also encourage local firms to adopt new technology and reduce imports. CDB and iNDEXTb have also agreed to facilitate interactions between manufacturing companies and industry and trade associations of China and Gujarat in investment promotion activities.
Another MoU was for establishing ‘Sister Province’ relations between China’s Guangdong province and Gujarat. Under this, cooperation is envisaged in economy, trade, environmental protection, public policy education, health, science & technology and tourism & culture.
The third MoU, signed between the Chinese city of Guangzhou and Ahmedabad, is for closer cooperation between the local authorities of the two cities. This will include knowledge sharing through delegation visits, institutional meetings and sharing of experiences in the areas of mutual interest.
Among the top industrialists who attended the signing of these MoUs were L&T Chairman A Naik, Suzlon Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) Tulsi Tanti, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani, Cadila Healthcare CMD Pankaj Patel, Cadila Pharma CMD Rajiv Modi, Rasna Ltd CMD Piruz Khambhatta, and the Torrent group’s Sudhir and Samir Mehta. Among academicians were Ashish Nanda (IIM Ahmedabad) and Sudhir Jain (IIT Gandhinagar).
The Gujarat government had earlier said Chinese companies had shown interest in investing in Gujarat, especially in the electronic and electrical sector. The Chinese President’s visit to the state, along with a large business delegation, was seen as the first step towards enhancing economic and cultural ties with the state.
President Xi at Sabarmati Ashram
While at Sabarmati Ashram, Prime minister Narendra Modi gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a guided tour of Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram. Xi was greeted with a traditional garland, made from hand-spun cotton threads, while Gandhi’s favourite bhajan played in the background. The Chinese President also tried his hand at a spinning wheel along with Modi, sitting on the floor of Hriday Kunj, the house of Gandhi. Xi witnessed a photo exhibition on Gandhi’s life at the ashram and also went through the letters written by Gandhi during the historic Indian freedom struggle. Modi gifted Xi an autobiography of Gandhi and a Chinese edition of the Bhagavad Gita.