India-China bilateral trade hit a new record in 2023: Envoy

India-China bilateral trade hit a new record in 2023: Envoy

At Chinese New Year event, Chinese acting Ambassador hopes for resumption of travel links 

India and China trade reached record levels in 2023, said the Chinese envoy to India, indicating that bilateral trade had surpassed 2022 figures despite a slowdown mid-year. Speaking at an event in Delhi celebrating the Chinese New Year, the envoy, Charge D’Affaires Ma Jia said that the growth in trade, to US $136.2 billion went along with other areas of “improvement” in bilateral ties, pointing to the informal meeting between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in August.

In 2022, bilateral trade had reached a record $135.98, while the trade deficit in favour of China had crossed a mammoth $100 billion driven by a 21% rise in Imports from China into India, despite continuing bilateral tensions over the military standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“Over the past year, China-India relations have shown a positive momentum of improvement. The two sides maintained high-level communications and interactions. President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi reached important consensus on stabilizing bilateral ties. China supported India’s presidency of both G20 and SCO,” Ms. Ma said, addressing guests at a reception held at the Chinese Embassy in Delhi on Tuesday.

“Bilateral trade volume reached 136.2 billion US dollars last year, with a year-on-year growth of 1.5%. India’s exports to China also increased by 6% last year,” she added, indicating that the bilateral trade deficit, which India has been seeking to decrease could also be lower, according to the figures, that were announced officially for the first time.

Despite the increase in engagement, China has not appointed an Ambassador to Delhi in over 16 months, the longest such period thus far, and Ms. Ma is due to complete her assignment in Delhi soon. The two countries have also not resumed direct flights between them, and the increase in trade comes in spite of the other restrictions on trade and investment placed by India since 2020 in the wake of the Galwan clashes and killing of soldiers.

“As the spring comes, we hope the window for communications gets bigger, the platform of practical cooperation becomes larger, the bridge for people-to-people exchanges will be rebuilt, and the two peoples can invest in and travel to each other’s country freely and conveniently,” Ms. Ma said, also commending India for its “best-ever performance in the Asian Games,” in Hangzhou last year.

 The Chinese envoy didn’t make any direct reference to the tensions at the LAC, where military commanders have held 20 rounds of talks since China amaassed troops along the LAC in April 2020 and clashes ensued. Despite the multiple rounds, and the informal meeting between the leaders on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa last year, talks remain deadlocked on at least two friction points at Demchok and Depsang. 

Instead, referring to the 70th anniversary of the India-China Panchsheel agreement this year, Ms. Ma called the five principles of peaceful coexistence “a basic norm governing international relations.”

“In 2024, we hope conflicts and wars will be brought to an end, displaced people return to their home at an early date, and international justice and fairness will be truly upheld,” Ms. Ma said.

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