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Strategic ties with US secondary to Indians’ interests: Sushma

"Strategic partnership does not mean we will ignore the interests of the Indians (living in US)"

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Sushma Swaraj, VOA
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India, March 21, 2017: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday said that strategic ties with Washington won’t prevent India from raising issues concerning Indians and Indian Diaspora with the US.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha on hate crimes against Indians in the US, she said that for the Modi government, the interests of Indians preceded strategic partnership with any country.

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“Strategic partnership does not mean we will ignore the interests of the Indians (living in US),” she said in reply to a question raised by CPI’s D. Raja.

“For us, strategic partnership is secondary. The safety and security of Indians and people of Indian origin is primary. Have no doubts that we would keep silent because we have strategic relations with a country.”

Addressing concerns raised by members as to whether a trend in hate crimes was emerging in the US, Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi was “closely monitoring” the situation.

“Till date, the US authorities are saying these are sporadic incidents. But we are watching if a trend is emerging. We are sure the US authorities would not let it become these hate crimes a trend.”

In last few weeks, at least three incidents of attacks on Indians in the US have been reported.

On February 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian engineer, was shot dead by a US national, Adam Purinton, in a bar in Kansas.

On March 2, Harnish Patel, a US national of Indian origin, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Lancaster, South Carolina.

On March 4, Deep Rai, also a US national of Indian origin, was shot by an unknown person near Seattle, allegedly after being asked to leave the country.

“The government has taken up this issue with the US government at very high levels and conveyed our deep concerns. We have called for necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Indian Diaspora and expeditious investigation into these incidents,” she said in her statement earlier.

She pointed out that President Donald Trump said on February 28 that the US “stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms”.

“Several Senators and Congressmen have also expressed their condolences and regret over the tragic incidents. They have been deeply appreciative of the contribution and role of the Indian community in the US.

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“I would like to reassure this House and the members that safety and security of Indian Diaspora abroad remains a top priority for this government.

“We are in a continuous dialogue with the US government. Close contacts with the local Indian community groups are being maintained through our embassy and consulates to address any emergent issues,” she said. (IANS)

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India Urges China to Open Markets For Trade

“When people make a price comparison and want to move towards the cheapest goods, those are usually Chinese products.”

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Sampad Yadav, the owner of a shop carrying electrical goods in a market in Gurugram near New Delhi, says people are drawn to Chinese products such as LED lights because they are more competitively priced. VOA

Sampad Yadav, who sells electrical goods in a shop in the business hub of Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, says Chinese goods such as LED lamps are popular with customers. “When people make a price comparison and want to move towards the cheapest goods, those are usually Chinese products.”

As in many other countries, Chinese products such as lamps, electronics, smartphones and engineering goods from the manufacturing giant have flooded Indian markets.

However, India has long fretted that areas in which it is strong such as generic drugs and Information Technology services, which make up some of its main exports to Western markets, remain shut out of China. That has made it difficult to bridge a ballooning trade deficit of about $50 billion between the two countries.

ALSO READ: China emerges as one of the fastest-growing sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India

But there is optimism this could change following a meeting this week between the commerce ministers of the two countries in New Delhi.

“The Chinese side have agreed to work on the issue, prepare a roadmap to bring the trade to balanced level over a period of time,” Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said after discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Zhong Shan.

Trade experts hope the growing tensions on trade issues between the United States and China will prompt Beijing to open up its markets more to Indian exports. “I think China is definitely under pressure now, looking into the kind of initiation which has happened against China,” says Ajay Sahai, who heads the Federation of Indian Exports Organization.

The meeting between the Indian and Chinese commerce ministers this week came amid efforts to de-escalate tensions between the Asian neighbors following a period of rocky ties and a tense 70-day face-off between their troops in the Himalayas last year.

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Products such as lights and lamps sold in Indian shops are predominantly Chinese.Products such as lights and lamps sold in Indian shops are predominantly Chinese. VOA

Despite a long-lingering boundary dispute and an often-fraught diplomatic relationship, trade ties between the Asian giants have gained significant momentum and China is now India’s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade in 2017 topped $80 billion rising by more than 20 percent over the previous year.

But worryingly for New Delhi, the trade deficit remains high despite a marginal growth in Indian exports – they add up to about $16 billion versus Chinese imports into India of about $68 billion.

ALSO READ: India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Market access a key issue

India exports mainly raw materials like iron ore, copper and cotton yarn to China. “In whatever value-added exports where we are competitive, unfortunately, the market is not open for us,” says Sahai.

However, China has promised to give greater market access to Indian goods, particularly pharmaceuticals and agricultural goods such as rice, as well as service exports, according to the Indian commerce minister. “They have decided to work in a way that will address security issues from their side as well as introduce Indian companies to those who can buy these products in China,” says Prabhu.

New Delhi, which is trying to ramp up domestic manufacturing, is also urging China to manufacture more goods exported to India within the country.

india-china trade
Generic drugs produced by Indian pharmaceutical companies make medicines affordable, but India says that China does not provide market access to its generic drugs. VOA

ALSO READ: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in restive Balochistan

Whether the promised actions translate into concrete outcomes remains to be seen. But exporters are hopeful. Sahai points out that China has invited Indian traders to what is being billed as the country’s first importers fair to be held in Shanghai later this year – it is being showcased as a measure to further open up China’s market.

The positive tenor of talks between the two countries comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on Chinese imports valued at $60 billion.

New Delhi could also face U.S. ire on trade issues – although its exports to the United States are comparatively small, it has a high trade deficit in its favor and Washington has often complained of protectionist barriers in India. In February, Trump called out India for imposing higher duties on Harley-Davidson motorcycles than the U.S. does on Indian motorbikes.

Amid growing fears that global trade faces uncertain times, analysts have called on countries like India to focus on increasing trade within the region.

India and China also said they will strengthen cooperation in the World Trade Organization and other multilateral and regional frameworks to maintain their common interests. VOA