By Patrick Jonas
BY THE time you read this report, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev would have concluded his India visit. He is the last of the four "biggies" to have visited India in the space of two months.
United States president Barack Obama was the first. He was followed in quick succession by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao and now the Russian president.
Business, more than anything else, was uppermost on the minds of these four gentleman. Who won?
Of the four countries, China is still seen as an "enemy" when it comes to external threats. Russia has been India's closest friend in times of need. The US is looking to build a new friendship with India and France has remained neutral. But China?
Even as it talks about friendship with India, the pin-pricks keep coming. There is an outstanding border issue between the two countries.
China's more-than-friendly relationship with Pakistan is another thorn. Yet, China seems to be doing better than the other three when it comes to trade with India.
The heads of the US, France and Russia all came hawking military hardware and nuclear tie-ups. China was the exception.
Well, how can a country which has border issues and is a close ally of Pakistan offer to sell arms? Yet, it seems to have made pretty good progress on the trade front.
The 68-year-old Mr Wen took along a contingent of 400 businessmen, compared to the 250 that landed with Mr Obama. Mr Sarkozy and Mr Medvedev also had a large number of businessmen with them but nowhere as large a delegation as China's.
While Mr Obama sealed US$10 billion (S$13.05 billion) in trade deals, Mr Wen did better. He closed deals worth US$16 billion. Today China is India's biggest trading partner while India doesn't even rank among the US' top 10 trading partners.
During the Chinese PM's visit, India and China pledged to expand trade to US$100 billion by 2015 from the US$60 billion at present. Compared to this, India's trade with Russia will total only US$10 billion this year.
France too does not do well, even though Mr Sarkozy was able to sign deals worth US$20 billion during his visit. The bilateral trade between the two countries was over US$7.8 billion during 2009-10. The two countries have now pledged to raise it to about $16 billion by 2012.
The US does better but has still a long way to catch up with China. India-US bilateral trade stood at US$36.6 billion in 2009-10 and Mr Obama said he hoped to double US exports in the next five years.
While it is true that India may buy fighter jets from Russia, nuclear reactors from France and transport aircraft from the US, once the purchases are over, the trade flow dips.
On the other hand, trade with China covers a whole gamut of products that are not necessarily big ticket items and the business continues on a regular basis. That's why Mr Wen wins big.