Aiming to correct trade imbalances with China, India has identified railways as a major thrust area to engage the world’s second largest economy at the bilateral Strategic Economic Dialogue starting on Monday.
The Railways of the two countries are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which will concentrate on three specific areas — high-speed trains, station development and heavy haulage. This will be the second round of talks after the inaugural session in Beijing this year.
For China, a deal with India’s Railways could not have been better timed. Indian Railways has already approved six high-speed rail corridors for various parts of the country. With the feasibility study for the first one, between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, already in, India has been on the lookout for global technology leaders in high-speed railways for cooperation.
Unlike others like Japan and France, China is a relatively new entrant in the world of bullet trains, starting its operations only in 2007. But within a few years, it has developed the world’s largest bullet train network. India needs the technical know-how on laying dedicated tracks and shopping for rakes.
India is also exploring Chinese technology on heavy haulage in dedicated freight corridors.
With active cooperation in railways, India wants to try out a new model of bilateral trade engagement with China with the aim to make the trade size swell to around $100 bn in the next few years.
While there is heavy Chinese presence in the power sector as well, Chinese cooperation in railways is being thought as “safer” as the sector is completely controlled by the government.
The two neighbours are expected to sign four MOUs in all — on IT, railways, energy efficiency standards and planning. The Planning Commissions of the two sides will also sign an MOU for joint studies.