In a significant move, China today agreed to provide India hydrological data of the Brahmaputra River in flood season, months after Beijing stopped the practice, crucial to predict floods. The two countries also signed an agreement under which China has agreed to import non-Basmati rice from India which is likely to bridge the ballooning trade deficit to a certain extent.
The two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) were signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held detailed discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping on bilateral and global issues which will add further vigour to the India-China friendship after their informal summit in Wuhan. Modi arrived in the picturesque coastal city of China's Shandong province on a two-day visit to attend the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Last year, China had stopped sharing data soon after the 73-day long stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Dokalam over Chinese military's plans to build a road close to India's Chicken Neck corridor connecting North-Eastern states. The first MoU was inked between China's Ministry of Water Resources and India's Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation upon provision of hydrological information of the Brahmaputra river in flood season by China to India.
The agreement enables China to provide hydrological data in flood season from May 15 to October 15 every year. It also enables the Chinese side to provide hydrological data if water level exceeds mutually agreed level during non-flood season. China, an upstream country, shares the scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water data for the river.
Originating from Tibet, the Brahmaputra is one of the major rivers in China. From Tibet it flows down to India and later enters Bangladesh where it joins the Ganga. The second MoU was signed between China's General Administration of Customs and India's Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare on Phytosanitary requirements for exporting rice from India to China, one of the world's biggest rice markets.
The 2006 Protocol on Phytosanitary Requirements for Exporting Rice from India to China has been amended to include the export of non-Basmati varieties of rice from India. At present, India can only export Basmati rice to China. Sources said the pact on non-Basmati rice may help in addressing India's concerns over widening trade deficit which has been in China's favour.
China has been promising to address the issue of trade deficit with India which has been seeking a greater market access for its goods and services in China.
Trade deficit with China stood at USD 36.73 billion during April-October this fiscal. India's trade deficit with China has marginally dipped to USD 51 billion in 2016-17 from USD 52.69 billion in the previous fiscal.