India and China Hold Summit of Emerging Powers

Chinese President Hu Jintao visits India, the first appearance there by a Chinese leader in a decade. He will meet Tuesday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. China and India contain roughly one-third of the world's population. They both have nuclear weapons and both are rising regional and global powers.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The president of China is in India today for a visit, the first there by a Chinese leader in a decade. President Hu Jintao will meet with India's prime minister, and they have much to discuss. China and India contain roughly a third of the world's population, they both have nuclear weapons and both are rising regional and global powers.

NPR's Philip Reeves is in New Delhi and joins us now. Hello.

PHILIP REEVES: Hello.

MONTAGNE: What is the trip all about? What's the main thrust?

REEVES: Well, I think bottom, you know, this trip is part of the process of working out what kind of relationship these two vast countries are going to have in the future. You know, to what extent will they be rivals, to what extent will they be economic partners?

India's been watching China's rise with some degree of intense interest, obviously, but also nervousness as it's more impressive than its own economic performance. India's economy is booming but it still has significant problems with infrastructure, with governance and so on. Its exports of manufactured goods, for example, are a tenth of that of China.

New Delhi has tightened ties with the U.S. I mean I'm sure you recall just recently the U.S./India nuclear pact going through the Senate. But it still hasn't figured out a footing exactly for its relationship with the up and coming power, China. And I think the same is true to some degree of China. It's not sure how it relates to India. Both sides are interested in each other, but wary. They know that they can gain if they improve their relationship.

MONTAGNE: Well when China's president meets with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh there in India what's the most important issue?

REEVES: Trade, I suppose, between the two is a key issue here. I mean it's growing dramatically. This year is expected to exceed $20 billion; 10 or 15 years ago it was a fraction of that. Both sides can see that they can gain a lot by doing more business, but there have been a lot of obstacles. And the Chinese have faced a fair number of difficulties trying to get access to India. For example, they would like to invest in India's telecoms and its business and its ports, and the Indians have been reluctant to allow that, citing security concerns. India would also like to get a wider range of exports into China. So I think trade investment issues will play a central role in this trip.

MONTAGNE: And give us a sense of how people in India are responding to the visit. Are they aware of it? Is it a big deal?

REEVES: Oh, yes. It's generating a lot of attention, actually. The headline writers, who are very inventive in this country, have been having a field day, running captions like Hu goes there, who's afraid of Hu, and so on.

MONTAGNE: Oh, boy.

REEVES: And the TV cable companies, a new force in this nation, and they're getting in on the act. One's running a poll right now to find out whether its viewers think that China can be trusted. So there is significant interest in this trip. It actually generated quite a bit of debate before it began, because the Chinese ambassador to New Delhi restated Beijing's view last week that a big chunk of land in northeast India, an entire state in fact, Arunachal Pradesh, is in fact Chinese territory. New Delhi wasn't pleased about that. A lot of Indians weren't pleased about that. Those issues won't be settled in the next few days. But President Hu's trip can, I suppose, be expected to produce warmer relations, and that will only help towards sorting out differences like that.

MONTAGNE: So after China's President Hu spends four days in India he goes on to Pakistan. What's that visit about?

REEVES: I think this is pretty important. China has close ties with Pakistan. It's been involved in some key infrastructure projects, including a strategically important seaport and two atomic power reactors in Punjab. Now you've got to remember that this visit is coming just after the U.S. Senate approved the nuclear cooperation deal with India, and that deal is now being hammered out in detail.

Pakistan obviously doesn't like that deal. It thinks in the long run it will mean its old enemy India will have still more nuclear weapons. China is obviously unenthusiastic, too. Some critics of the deal say it's intended to use India - by the U.S. - to counterbalance China. Now the Pakistani media is speculating about the possibility that there will be an agreement during President Hu's visit to supply Pakistan with more civilian nuclear reactors. And a lot of people are going to be watching this visit to see if the Chinese and Pakistanis make some sort of move to counter the new India-U.S. relationship.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. NPR's Philip Reeves in New Delhi, where the president of China today begins a four-day visit.

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