China and India, old neighbors divided by the world's highest mountains, are welcoming a historic moment in their relations with Chinese President Hu Jintao's upcoming visit on Monday.
"President Hu's visit is a landmark in China-India relations. The most important task of this tour is to enrich the strategic partnership between China and India," said Sun Yuxi, Chinese ambassador to India.
The two countries decided to establish strategic cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India in April last year.
During Hu's visit, the two countries will discuss how to fully push forward the bilateral ties and sign a series of agreements on their cooperation in such fields as politics, energy, trade, investment, tourism and culture, Sun said.
The two Asian giants had remained indifferent to each other for about four decades, but in the past few years, their relations are quickly warming up with more and more cooperation in politics, economy and culture.
Official figures showed about 90 senior Chinese officials have visited India in the first 10 months of this year and vice versa.
For several times in 2006, the China-India Friendship Year, residents in India's capital New Delhi have seen Siri Fort Theatre, where many major performances were put on, decorated with bright red, the typical Chinese lucky color.
Chinese acrobatics, Beijing Opera, traditional dance and singing won lots of Indian audience, including Sonia Gandhi, chairman of Congress Party that leads the ruling coalition in India. She and her family joined the storm of applause when watching the performance of Chinese acrobats in September.
Being a housewife in a mid-class family in south Delhi, Rita Joshi had shown little interest in political topics in the past, but even she has noticed the changing India-China relations.
"More and more frequently I have seen the term of 'China' mentioned in Indian media, from TV to newspapers," she said.
Rita's husband works as a captain on an oil tanker and has a hobby of collecting handicrafts from all over the world, but their lovely collection did not include those from China.
"Now I am starting to realize we have missed quite an important part. Next time he will try to find some Chinese art crafts," she said.
HEATED ECONOMIC TIES
Businessmen in China and India are those benefiting most from the warming bilateral ties.
"The Indian business circle is optimistic about the future economic cooperation between India and China. We are satisfied with the fast growth of bilateral trade," said Saroj Kumar Poddar, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The China-India trade volume topped 18.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2005, up 146 percent over 2003. This year, the total volume is expected to reach 23.5 billion dollars, fulfilling the target set by Premier Wen and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh two years earlier.
"We hope that the bilateral trade will top 100 billion dollars in the next six to seven years," Poddar said.
Some have worried about the possible tough competition between India and China as they shared lots of similarity such as low labor cost, big markets and fast economic growth, he said.
"But with a careful and detailed study, you will find that India and China have advantages in many different fields. The two countries should find something complementary when competing with each other in a healthy manner," Poddar said.
"I believe, for any international investors, it is not China 'or' India, it is China 'and' India," he added.
EASE ON BORDERS
Another breakthrough of China-India relations this year fell on the Nathu La pass, the mountain trade point linking China's Tibet and India's Sikkim.
The two countries reopened the border trade across the pass in July this year after a standstill of 44 years.
Indian media cheered for the reopening, saying the two countries took an important step forward on the road to peace and friendship.
For centuries, merchants had shipped Chinese silk and tea and Indian spices across the Nathu La pass along the ancient Silk Road, but it had become a heavily guarded border due to a dispute between the two countries.
The reopening of Nathu La has not only presented a profitable chance for bilateral trade, but also signaled a new attitude over the border dispute long haunting the two countries.
C. Raja Mohan, a renowned China expert in India, told Xinhua that it will be the best chance for the two countries to improve understanding and cooperation when President Hu visits India.
"We hope leaders of the two countries will come up with a direction over future development and raise the bilateral ties to a higher level," Mohan said.
He borrowed a song of American singer Frank Sinatra to describe the future of the two countries. "I believe, for us, 'the best is yet to come.'"