Ahead of his crucial meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee stressed the importance of “shared interests” between the two countries to ensure peace and stability in the region. Speaking at the India-China Business Forum in Guangdong on Wednesday, the president said that the two Asian neighbours should join hands to significantly enhance their convergences.

The 80-year-old Mukherjee told the audience that the two emerging Asian economies should work together “not just for the good of them, but for the world in general”. “This is the message that I bring on this visit,” he added. The veteran Indian politician believes that India and China are very much capable of enhancing their convergences and move forward together without discord.

Mukherjee, who had visited China in various capacities (as Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission) in the past, made clear that one of the main principles of Indian diplomacy is to expand its relationship with China.

Meanwhile, the president urged Beijing to give more market access for Indian products, saying that the Chinese market is an ideal destination for various Indian products, like drugs and pharmaceuticals, Information Technology (IT) and IT-related services and agro-products. “Although the trade balance continues to be in favour of China, we look forward to expanding our commerce to make it more equitable,” said the president.

Mukherjee also invited Chinese investors to explore the Indian market, stressing that the Narendra Modi government recently launched various programmes, like ‘Make in India’, to provide better facilities to foreign investors. He assured the Chinese business leaders that they would enjoy a conducive environment in India, as New Delhi would facilitate their efforts to make their investments profitable. “We must take advantage of the opportunities that abound in the growth of both our economies,” added the president.

On Thursday, the Indian Head of State is scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart and other senior leaders in Beijing. Indian foreign policy experts are of the opinion that President Mukherjee’s ongoing visit to China is a crucial one, as it will be difficult for him to win China’s “trust”. The Sino-Indian relationship has been tested on a number of occasions and the Asian giant’s “friendly” ties with neighbouring Pakistan have always influenced its relation with India. In fact, there is no other bilateral relationship where India’s ties with a third country matter so much. China, as an “all-weather ally” of Pakistan, has never accepted India as its friend.

Now, it’s a challenge for Mukherjee to present India as a friendly nation to the top Chinese leadership during their meeting on Thursday. And to succeed, he will have to summon all his persuasive skills that served him well in his long political career. Noted Indian journalist Jayanth Jacob has rightly said that diplomacy is a subtle art, but at times can be fickle.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]