India and Pakistan were the first two legs of Premier Li Keqiang's debut trip abroad as China's head of the government, which also took him to Switzerland and Germany in late May. His first visits upon assuming office represent to a degree the nation's diplomatic orientation and signals priorities among bilateral relationships.
Border disputes and trade imbalances have long frustrated bilateral relations between China and India. The two nations recently showed maturity in preventing a border standoff from further escalation. On the business side, the two nations have much to note. China is India's second largest trade partner, and India is China's biggest trade partner in South Asia. Trade reached $66.5 billion in 2012, and is expected to exceed $100 billion in 2015. Dialogue between the two most populous nations and largest potential markets will pave the way for deepened mutual trust in the political sphere and further economic development.
During Premier Li's stay in India, the two countries signed a joint statement, a series of agreements and a proposal to build an economic corridor across Myanmar and Bangladesh to connect the two major economies in Asia. Besides these successes, it is believed that Li's visit will further strengthen China and India's collaboration in such international issues as the global financial crisis, climate change, energy, antiterrorism and food security under the institutions of the UN, G20 and the BRICS. As leaders from China and India both realized the importance of maintaining a secure environment for their development and prosperity, Li's visit will also help ease the border issue lest it disturbs national interests, overall bilateral relations and regional stability.
Pakistan, an all-weather neighbor to China, is China's second largest trade partner and largest foreign direct investment destination in the region. Trade volume in 2012 topped $12 billion, an increase of 17.6 percent over the previous year. It is expected to exceed $15 billion around 2015.
Li signed 11 cooperation documents with Pakistan covering areas including trade, technology and culture. The two nations also agreed to set up an economic corridor to further connect their two economies, which is of great strategic significance in maintaining peace and improving livelihoods in South Asia. Li, arriving just after the parliamentary election in Pakistan, encouraged the leadership of both nations to better negotiate concrete measures to further their all-round strategic collaboration and to join hands to seek common development.
India and Pakistan are both important neighbors in South Asia. The new Chinese premier's recent state visits, in addition to boosting bilateral ties with the two nations, will surely go far beyond bilateral relations and exert a significant influence on peace, stability and development in the region and the world at large.