Singh, Hu discuss strengthening strategic and eco ties

Sanya (China): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao met here on Wednesday, with the Indian leader conveying the intention to expand cooperation in all areas and strengthen the strategic and economic partnership.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit and discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation with particular focus on economy and trade, amid India`s concerns over the imbalance in favour of China.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Singh told Hu that India was "keen to expand areas of cooperation" with China.

"I wish to reaffirm the desire to strengthen strategic and economic partnership with China in every possible way," the Prime Minister said.

As the two leaders greeted each other warmly, Singh pointed out to Hu that they had met a number of times, including on the sidelines of G-20 and BRIC Summits.

Hu said it was pleasure to meet Singh and that he looked forward to exchanging views on bilateral and international issues of mutual interest.

Singh and Hu met in the backdrop of concerns in India with regard to expanding trade imbalance in favour of China and other issues like grant of stapled visas to people hailing from Jammu and Kashmir and Chinese activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Ahead of his meeting with Hu, Singh said that as the two largest developing countries in the world, India and China bear an important responsibility of ensuring their all-round and sustainable socio-economic development.

Recalling the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to India in December last year, Singh said the two sides had agreed on a series of measures to broad base and balance trade and economic cooperation.

"We have to make more efforts to promote greater Indian exports to China to reduce the trade deficit," he has said in an interview to Xinhua while expressing hope that the two countries would be able to achieve the target of USD 100 billion by 2015.

Earlier today, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said there was a need to address the question of trade imbalance and that India had sought greater access to Chinese markets, particularly in the areas of strengths like IT and pharma, to bridge the gap.

Sharma yesterday had said the trade imbalance in favour of China was a matter of concern as he pointed out that the imbalance had gone up to USD 20 billion in the overall bilateral trade of USD 55 billion as of December 2010. The imbalance was about USD 16 billion till 2009.

He said China had assured India that it would give access through government contracts in sectors like pharmaceuticals and IT.