India and China have signed two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) related to sharing of Brahmaputra river data and supply of non-Basmati rice. These MoUs were signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held detailed discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping on bilateral and global issues to take forward agenda set at informal Wuhan Summit of April 2018. The two leaders discussed implementation of Wuhan consensus and drawing up blueprint for future India-China relations. This was 14th meeting between two leaders over past 4 years.
MoU on sharing of Brahmaputra river data: Under it, China will provide India hydrological data of the Brahmaputra River in flood season crucial to predict floods. It was signed between China’s Ministry of Water Resources and India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. The agreement will enable China to provide hydrological data in flood season from May 15 to October 15 every year. It will also enable China to provide hydrological data if water level exceeds mutually agreed level during non-flood season.
Brahmaputra is one of the major rivers in China originating from Tibet. From Tibet it flows down to India and later enters Bangladesh where it joins the Ganga. China as an upstream country shares scientific study of movement, distribution and quality of water data for Brahmaputra River. In 2017, China had stopped sharing data soon after 73-day long stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Dokalam over Chinese military’s plans to build road close to India’s Chicken Neck corridor connecting North-Eastern states.
MoU on Phytosanitary requirements: It was signed between China’s General Administration of Customs and India’s Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare. It is related to Phytosanitary requirements for exporting rice from India to China, one of the world’s biggest rice markets. It amends 2006 Protocol on Phytosanitary Requirements for Exporting Rice from India to China to include the export of non-Basmati varieties of rice from India. At present, India can only export Basmati rice to China.
The MoU on non-Basmati rice may help in addressing India’s concerns over ballooning trade deficit with China to a certain extent. Trade deficit of India with China stood at US $36.73 billion during April-October 2017. India’s trade deficit with China has marginally dipped to US $51 billion in 2016-17 from US $52.69 billion in 2015-16 fiscal. China has been promising to address issue of trade deficit with India which has been seeking greater market access for its goods and services in China.