China's consulate-general in Kolkata (or Calcutta), the capital of India's west Bengal, opened to the public under the auspices of visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Monday, or September 8. To date, two consulates-general have been established in Mumbai (or Bombay) and Kolkata for China, and two consulates-general set up in Shanghai and Guangzhou for India.
Sino-India bilateral relations have grown rapidly with an increasingly frequent exchange of high-level visits since the entry of the new century. Leaders of the two nations have held bilateral talks in vital international arenas such as the site of the East Asia Summit (EAS), the United Nations General Assembly, the Asia telecom conference, and the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic cooperation (APEC) organization.
Meanwhile, China and India have set up a variety of dialogue channels, including the annual security dialogue, the bilateral strategic dialogue, the Sino-Indian defense and security consultation, the economic and trade dialogue, and the China-India special representatives-level border negotiations. Such dialogues via these avenues have made the gratifying outcome, and particularly with the talks concerning the border issue and bilateral military ties.
On the border issue, the two sides have held 12 rounds of talks since the mechanism of Special Representatives on the Boundary question was instituted in 2003. China and India in July 2006 re-opened cross-border trade at Nathu La, a historical trade route in the Himalayas that was closed 44 years ago; it was agreed in Sept. 2007 to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) on the boundary question for eventually forming a framework to settle the border issue. So, their frontier areas have been in peace and tranquility over the past two decade, and the two nations have been working hard to resolve the substantial issues existing between them.
The two sides are in mutually induction with frequent military exchanges. The first-ever joint military operations (or exercise) in search and field rescue between the two navies of China and India were held in November 2003. In December last year, the Chinese and Indian armies held the first joint anti-terror military drill codenamed Hand-in-Hand 2007, in the southwestern China province of Yunnan; the two nations would also hold similar anti-terror drills in late 2008, and a Sino-Indian joint airforce exercise has also been put on the agenda.
Moreover, the defense ministers of China and India have made numerous visits to each other's countries and such an exchange of visits at the high level has become quite normal, and the two nations have set up a mechanism for "annual defense dialogue". In November 2007, the two armed forces held the first-ever "defense and security consultations," and turned this mechanism into a most important platform to build up their mutual trust.
Commerce and trade also represents a "bright spot" in bilateral ties. The volume of Sino-Indian trade, which stood merely at 2.94 billion US dollars in 2000, surged to 38.6 billion dollars in 2007, and China substituted the United States for India's largest trade partner in the year. During Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official trip to China in early 2008, leaders of both countries set a bilateral trade target to 60 billion US dollars against the 40 billion dollars as planned previously. The governments of the two nations are conferring to reach a Sino-Indian free trade agreement so as to uplift their bilateral trade to a new height.
Besides, China and India have increasingly stepped up their strategic cooperation on the regional and global scale. To date, the two nations have come to share or seek growing common interests on issues such as global trade, climate change, and even with regard to core labor standards and the human rights. Much cooperation has occurred with China and India on quite a few occasions, and helps to ease their pressure from the U.S. and other Western developed countries.
For example, the two nations share the same or identical views on the issue relating to the subsidization of agricultural produce in the process of negotiations during the Doha round of trade talks and, in previous climate change negotiations, China and India both underscored "the common but different responsibilities" with climate change mitigation in developing countries. The two sides have been supporting each other in an endeavor to spur the international order to move toward the direction conducive to their socio-economic development.
To view things from a global perspective, it is the common desire of the people of both nations to seek the win-win result through their friendly cooperation and common development. As the two largest newly emerged countries, acknowledged Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in his speech at the inauguration ceremony of the Chinese consulate-general in Kolkata on Monday, the improvement and development of Sino-Indian ties are not only favorable for the fundamental interest of both countries and the common aspiration of their people, but also favarable for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world at large.
By People's Daily Online, and its author is Hu Shisheng, an associate researcher of Asian-African Studies with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations