India, China agree deals on rice, river as relations continue to thaw


China says it will share hydrological data on the Brahmaputra and amend some requirements on Indian rice exports

China and India on Saturday settled a dispute over the flood-prone Brahmaputra river that flows from Tibet to Bangladesh in a sign of growing cooperation between the two countries.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement as they began the two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.

“Our talks will add further vigour to the India-China friendship,” Modi said on Twitter, as the two countries try to reset troubled ties after last summer’s months-long border stand-off.

The SCO was launched in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan mainly to combat radical Islam and other security concerns across Central Asia. Traditional rivals India and Pakistan joined last year.

Under two deals signed on the sidelines of the summit, China will share hydrological data on the Brahmaputra and amend certain requirements on Indian exports of rice other than the premium Basmati variety to China, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Twitter.

[The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries gather for a photograph ahead of their talks on Sunday in Qingdao, eastern China’s Shandong province. Photo: AP]

India said last year that China had not stuck to an agreement to share hydrological data, or scientific information on the movement, distribution and quality of water for the Brahmaputra. China had cited “technological” reasons.

New Delhi has also been concerned about the rising trade deficit with China, and has sought greater access to the world’s second-largest economy for products such as rice, rapeseed, soybeans and sugar.

India’s trade gap with China has widened to US$51 billion, a nine-fold increase over the past decade.

The rice deal should help India finally crack the market in China, the world’s biggest buyer of the commodity, traders said.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that China will buy 6.4 million tonnes of rice this year, while India will export 11.9 million tonnes.

“Despite competitive prices, India was unable to export rice to China due to their phytosanitary norms,” said a Delhi-based dealer with a global trading firm, referring to food standards as well as animal and plant hygiene.

“As the norms are going to change, India can easily export more than 1 million tonnes of rice every year to China.”


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