India-China business forum called off, no visas for Chinese team

The forum, which takes place every year in an Indian city, was scheduled to be held at a five-star hotel in the Capital on November 13 and 14.

AN INDIA-CHINA business forum that was to take place in Delhi later this week has been called off as the Indian government has not yet issued visas to the Chinese delegation.

The forum, which takes place every year in an Indian city, was scheduled to be held at a five-star hotel in the Capital on November 13 and 14. In invitations that have been sent out, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has been listed as the chief guest and chief economic adviser K Subramanian, and members of NITI Aayog, among the speakers.

International Business Linkage Forum (IBLF), the India-based organisers of the forum along with FICCI, put out a terse message on their website announcing that the meet would not take place as scheduled. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have been advised to postpone the Forum for the time being. We apologise for the inconvenience caused. We hope to announce the new event date soon,” the message read.

The 70-strong Chinese delegation, sources said, had applied for visas weeks ago, but had not received them yet. The organisers, who appear to have had government backing for previous editions of the forum, tried to push the visas for the Chinese delegates till the last minute but have been told that they will not be issued for now, the sources said.

The IBLF describes itself on its website as “a platform that opens the floodgates of international markets for its members through its network, resources and presence in the various countries”. It held its inaugural conference in Beijing in 2003. This year’s was the eighth “India China Forum”.

Last year’s event was held in Pune, and was hosted by the Maharashtra government. More than 200 Chinese delegates participated in the event. In 2017, the Forum was hosted by the Karnataka government in Bengaluru.

Sources said the organisers were told last Friday by the Ministry of External Affairs that they could not issue the visas without approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs. With the weekend intervening, and delegates booked on flights leaving China over the next two days, the organisers decided to call off the event.

The cancellation comes less than a month after the Mamallapuram summit, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed how to improve trade relations, among other matters. Both sides had agreed to set up a high-level trade and economic dialogue mechanism to address concerns.

It also comes days after India’s refusal to join the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in its present form.The main Indian concern is that though bilateral trade with China has climbed to over US$95 billion at the end of 2018, it is stacked against India to the tune of US$53 billion.

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