BEIJING -- Premier Li Keqiang flies to India for the first leg of his maiden foreign visit as premier, and the itinerary evinces the importance of bilateral ties.
During his stay, Li will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meet with President Pranab Mukherjee and other leaders, and deliver a speech on China-India ties. Also, the two sides will sign a series of cooperation agreements.
It is widely believed that the visit will help further remove suspicion and consolidate mutual trust between the two countries and forge a new type of strategic cooperative partnership to the benefit of both sides.
The two neighboring countries are both ancient civilizations, major developing countries and leading emerging-market economies.
These and many other similarities provide a sound reason for them to learn from each other and a solid foundation for them to further their strategic cooperative partnership.
With a combined population of more than 2.5 billion, the two countries, each boasting a burgeoning middle class, also provide enormous markets for the world.
Bilateral trade grew from $2.9 billion in 2000 to $61.7 billion in 2010, marking an increase of 20 folds in 10 years. In 2012, the volume reached $66.5 billion, according to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce.
China has now become India’s second largest trade partner, and India is China’s largest trade partner in South Asia.
“At such a growth rate, the two sides are expected to hit the designated target of $100 billion on schedule,” Vice-Minister of Commerce Jiang Yaoping said on May 16 at a press briefing, referring to the 2015 goal.
However, compared with the population and economic scale of the two countries, bilateral trade still has much potential to grow, said Jiang Jingkui, director of the Department of South Asian Languages at Peking University.
“They could strengthen cooperation in infrastructure construction in India and in medicine and IT products in China,” he added.
On China’s trade surplus with India, Vice-Minister Jiang said the trade imbalance between China and India is mainly due to differences in the two countries’ economic structures.
China has never sought trade surplus, nor has China imposed any blocks on imports, the vice-minister added.
Given the many similarities China and India share in population scale and economic development potential, Jiang from Peking University said the two should also strengthen cooperation on multilateral platforms in such fields as climate change and global economic governance.
Jabin T. Jacob, assistant director at the Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies, said China and India should devote greater attention to each other.
As Asia’s two rising powers, they have immense possibilities of cooperation, he said, noting that bilateral cooperation has already started under the frameworks of BRICS and the G20.
The border issue is a problem left over from history. Since 2003, special representatives of China and India have held 15 rounds of talks and made positive progress.
Earlier this month, an incident in the western section of the China-India border ended peacefully, after the two countries negotiated the situation through diplomatic channels and existing military mechanisms in an amicable way.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that maintaining peace in the border areas serves the common interests of the two countries and that both sides have demonstrated a constructive attitude toward maintaining peace along their border.
“I believe that our two countries have the ability and wisdom to manage any differences or problems between us as long as we keep the larger interest of bilateral relations in mind,” Wei Wei, Chinese ambassador to India, said in an article published on Indian newspaper The Hindu on May 10.
It is China’s strategic choice and established policy to strengthen good-neighborly and friendly cooperation with India, and that will not change, stressed the ambassador.
Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said bilateral cooperation in other areas, such as trade, cultural exchanges and people-to-people exchanges, will help reach a final settlement on the border issue.
At a meeting with Singh in March, President Xi Jinping stressed that China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of special representatives to work out a fair, rational solution acceptable to both sides as soon as possible.
PARTNERS NOT RIVALS
Leaders of the two countries have repeatedly underscored their common pursuit of development and the principle that they are partners instead of rivals.
In their March meeting, Xi told Singh that the world needs the common development of China and India, and is big enough to accommodate the development of both countries.
China regards its ties with India as one of its most important bilateral relationships, and commits itself to pushing forward the two countries’ strategic cooperative partnership, he added.
Singh said his country adheres to an independent foreign policy and will not be used as a tool to contain China.
India, he said, is willing to make concerted efforts with China to show the world that they are cooperative partners instead of rivals.
The Indian prime minister said his country recognizes Tibet as part of the Chinese territory and will not allow Tibetans to conduct political activities against China in India.
Shortly after Li became premier on March 15, Singh congratulated him over phone. During the conversation, Li said China will, as always, attach great importance to its relations with India and will work with India to further promote their strategic cooperative partnership.
People-to-people interaction is another important dimension of bilateral ties, and recent years have seen youth exchanges proceeding well between China and India.
While addressing an Indian youth delegation on May 15 in Beijing, Li encouraged young people in China and India to draw wisdom and strength from the two countries’ abundant historical traditions and actively promote bilateral friendly cooperation.
According to Jacob from the Institute of Chinese Studies, there is a lot of interest in learning the Chinese language in India. Similarly, many young Chinese are interested in Indian culture and dance.
“I think, there should be more scholarships related to these areas -- language and the creative arts -- between the two countries, so that young people on both sides can develop a deeper appreciation of each other,” Jacob said.
Jacob also proposed that the two countries translate their famous literary works into each other’s languages, saying that such efforts are vital to people-to-people exchanges.
China and India established diplomatic ties in April 1950. Despite some twists and turns, friendship and cooperation have prevailed through bilateral ties.
Considering their large population and rising international status, the world cannot afford a sour relationship between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the two nations have demonstrated that they are blazing a new trail for positive interaction toward win-win results. During the process, Li’s maiden foreign tour will definitely inject new vigor to bilateral ties.