As a sign of thawing bilateral relations, New Delhi and Beijing have agreed to get into a trade relationship that might see India exporting over a million tonnes of rice to China each year, over the next few years.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement as they began the two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit last week.
The two have also signed and settled a dispute over the flood-prone Brahmaputra river that flows from Tibet to Bangladesh in a sign of growing cooperation between them.
“Our talks will add further vigour to the India-China friendship,” Modi said on Twitter, as the two countries try to reset troubled ties months after a border standoff.
The SCO, launched in 2001 mainly to combat radical Islam and other security concerns across Central Asia, added traditional rivals India and Pakistan as members last year.
In the two deals signed on the sidelines of the SCO summit on Saturday, Beijing will share hydrological data on the Brahmaputra river 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.
New Delhi has also been concerned about the rising trade deficit with its Himalayan neighbour 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 $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 in 2018, while India will export a total of 11.9 million tonnes.
Traders in India expect India can easily export more than 1 million tonnes rice every year to China.