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Commentary: Chinese premier's India trip to evince Beijing's unwavering pursuit of better ties

By Yang Qingchuan (Xinhua)

10:04, May 19, 2013

BEIJING, May 18 (Xinhua) -- The choice of India as the first leg of Li Keqiang's maiden overseas trip as Chinese premier sent out a clear signal that Beijing's new leadership prioritizes enhancing ties with New Delhi despite border spats and other disputes.

The rationale is simple: With China and India being the world's two largest developing countries and most populous nations -- accounting for about 40 percent of the global population, a sour and bitter relationship would serve the interests of neither side.

For that reason, in recent talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li reaffirmed China's commitment to fostering stronger bilateral ties while effectively managing border problems and other thorny issues.

Over the years, bilateral relations have withstood a host of tests, including the latest border spat. But the swift cooling-down once again shows that both nations are looking at the big picture of their ties, instead of being carried away by incidental matters.

It is obvious that both sides want fewer hostilities and confrontations in their neighborhood and, with their primary focus on national development, need to seize the strategic growth opportunities facing them.

Since the 1950s, many in the developing world have regarded China and India as the champions of their rights, and that shared responsibility has inspired the two nations to work more closely on issues like climate change, food and energy security, and global financial woes.

Now, as both nations are key stakeholders with increasing importance in regional and global affairs, it is a better moment than ever for them to join hands to tackle financial turmoils, terrorism and other challenges of the day.

Those in the West who tend to see China-India ties through a prism of territorial disputes and inter-power rivalry must have forgotten the fact that their border problem is largely a legacy of Western colonialism. In the thousands of years before that, the two old civilizations rarely quarrelled for territorial issues.

It was their similar experiences of anti-colonialism and independence movements that ushered in China-India cooperation in the modern era.

Also, it is thanks to the same spirit of hard-work and self-reliance that both countries have achieved economic booms over the past decades, with China becoming the "world's factory" and India growing into a top IT and outsourcing hub.

Moreover, it is due to the same aspiration for a fair and just world order that the two countries have stood side by side and coordinated closely under various multilateral frameworks, including BRICS, BASIC, and the Doha round of trade talks.

Their increasingly robust links in trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges have demonstrated that strengthening bilateral cooperation is not just empty talk.

To be honest, the two nations cannot fully restore mutual trust without resolving the border dispute, a complex issue that might linger for a while.

However, the level of mistrust could be gradually reduced with good faith in each other's strategic intentions. China adheres to the five principles of peaceful coexistence in its foreign policy, and has never sought to enhance ties with any other country at the expense of its relationship with India.

It is also Beijing's belief that India, an early advocate of the non-aligned movement, will pursue its China policy at its own will without being part of the schemes of other powers.

China-India interaction is gaining global prominence at a time when many in the world turn to the two leading emerging economies for hints of confidence in the post-crisis recovery process.

That attention comes with a responsibility for the two giant neighbors to lay aside their differences and expand collaboration toward building a new type of inter-power relations that benefit the two nations, the region and the world at large.

The China-India relationship is more about the future than about the past. It is with such a forward-looking mind that China's new leadership has decided to take new initiatives to further deepen bilateral ties and mutual trust. Li's upcoming trip will be a crucial step in that direction.

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