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NITI Aayog VC says India will not take sides in US-China trade spat

'India has always taken independent position on trade issues,' Rajiv Kumar

Press Trust of India  |  Beijing 

NITI Aayog Vice-Chiarman Rajiv Kumar

on Sunday said it would not take sides in the ongoing spat between and amid differences with Beijing over its controversial (BRI).

Remarks by NITI Aayog vice-chairman came as he held the fifth (SED) dialogue with his Chinese counterpart He Lifeng, the chairman of China's top planning body the (NDRC) here yesterday.

During the talks, the also came up for discussion.

"suo motu has been the supporter of the rule-based multilateral trading order. In that sense, we don't have to take sides either one-way or the other," Kumar told the media when asked about India's stand on the current spat between and

The SED, a key platform between and to discuss and economic issues, was resumed this year after last year's disruption amid Dokalam standoff.

The meeting took place amid growing rapprochement between the two countries after the standoff.

"has always taken independent position on issues," Kumar told the Indian media.

His remarks came as the and announced tit-for-tat tariffs on each other's products. President Trump is ramping up pressure on to cut the $ 375 bilateral billion deficit.

"While does not like any measures that harm the rule-based international regime, there is no reason to take sides in this," he said.

"We are not that level of player inf the market. Our shares are much smaller. We are the takers of the rules than makers," he said.

Kumar mentioned the and Japanese war in late 1980 when Washington successfully pressured Japan to cut the deficit.

"That is what the is still expecting. If you notice, both sides have announced their position (to cut tariffs) but they have not given the dates. This is posturing," he said.

"I don't think anybody is interested in war crisis," he said.

In his address at the SED yesterday, Kumar made a strong pitch for to allow India's exports of soybean and sugar.

Soybean is regarded as most important for farmers and is the largest importer. has threatened to impose 25 per cent tariffs on its imports if Trump went ahead with his tariff plan for

Elaborating on his stand in asking to import soybean and sugar from India, he said, "My hint was much more towards agricultural tariffs in than anything else".

China's agricultural tariffs are high and India's agricultural exports suffer as a result of it.

Asked whether the US-spat is advantageous to India, he said, "If war happens, elephants fight and grass gets affected. We are part of the grass. We don't want that Kumar said, adding that the and being the world's top two economies are giants.

"We are not there yet," he said.

Apparently, has raised the at the SED for which responded raising its concerns over the sovereignty issue regarding the (CPEC) as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Kumar said Chinese brought up the issue and the Indian delegation responded by saying it is a matter of sovereignty which cannot be compromised.

The Chinese side "extolled" the virtue and emphasised how it is "completely nonconflictual and respectful of sovereignty and independence", he said.

"After hearing India's response they chose to ignore it," he said.

But at the same time there was no reference to the and it is covered in the sovereignty-related concerns raised by India, Kumar said.

"Both sides recognise the differences over the issue. But there is sufficient scope within the defined redlines to take the development cooperation forward," he said.

There was a discussion at the SED about the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) corridor. While says it is a part of the BRI, says the project predates that.

Kumar said the main focus for is Asian trilateral highway. The is work in progress.

Currently and Myanmar are not interested in it in view of the Rohingya refugee crisis, Kumar said.

for its part appreciated India's Act East Policy to improve connectivity in the north-eastern states.

He said the core message from the SED was that "we must focus incessantly and unremittingly on the development cooperation possibilities despite differences".

"Major take away for was that has expressed interest in joining the International Solar Alliance mooted by India," Kumar said.

"It seems we have an opening. If that happens it can be a big shot the arm," he said.

There were some "positive noises" from on investing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheme for housing for all Indians by 2022.

Kumar yesterday said that there was immense potential to set up special clusters for Chinese investments like textiles, leather, food processing, electronic components and pharmaceuticals.

First Published: Sun, April 15 2018. 21:39 IST
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