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Volume XLIV, No.49

Hu Jintao spells out China’s New Approach to India

Editorial

Tuesday 24 April 2007, by SC

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India this week marks a new step towards enhancing bilateral Sino-Indian cooperation in diverse fields.

Ever since Rajiv Gandhi’s historic visit to China at the end of 1988 and P.V. Narasimha Rao’s highly successful 1993 China sojourn, Sino-Indian relations have slowly but steadily not only improved but recorded substantive growth in real terms in the economic sphere. No doubt irritants in our ties do remain on various fronts, capped by the persisting inability of the two countries to overcome the contentious border dispute, that cast its long spell just on the eve of Hu’s visit as a result of some avoidable public utterances by the Chinese ambassador to India especially with regard to Beijing’s claim on the “whole of Arunachal Pradesh”. However, neither Hu nor the Indian leaders, notably PM Manmohan Singh, his chief host in the Indian capital, allowed these irritants to overshadow the positive features of the visit. These were reflected as much in the 13 agreements signed between the two Asian giants and their decision to formulate a 10-pronged strategy to intensify cooperation and strategic ties as in the Chinese side’s readiness to “agree to promote cooperation in the field of nuclear energy”, consistent with the two states’ “international commitments”, against the background of Beijing’s recognition of nuclear energy to be an “essential and important component” of the two countries’ plans “to ensure energy security”.

The ambitious project to expand bilateral trade from the present $ 20 billion to $ 40 billion by 2010 further mirrored the deepening of ties; this was equally manifest in the decision to reopen two Consulates (of China in Kolkata and of India in Guangzhou). But above all what acquired maximum prominence was the “important political message” to the world at large that Hu, in his keynote address at the Vigyan Bhavan meeting held under the aegis of the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA), conveyed on the basis of what the two countries had agreed upon:

China and India are true friends and partners. China and India are committed to pursuing long-term friend-ship and working closely for common development.

He listed several areas of “future growth of China-India strategic and cooperative partnership” wherein he stressed on enhancing “mutual political trust” to consolidate the basis of Sino-Indian relations, boosting business cooperation, and stepping up “friendly consultation” while working for “an early settlement of the boundary issue”. The last task, he was convinced, would contribute to peace and stability in the region apart from projecting the “shared wish of the two peoples” and thus serving the “fundamental interests” of the two countries—and hence this objective, he felt, “should... be pursued as a strategic goal” for both the states. Simultaneously he laid special emphasis on the need to “develop multilateral cooperation and jointly uphold the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries”. It is in this context that the Chinese President unambiguously declared:

Over 50 years ago, Chinese and Indian leaders jointly initiated the five principles of peaceful co-existence, making a major contribution to promoting world peace and stability and setting a model for enhancing friendship and cooperation in international affairs. China and India share broad common interests and play an increasingly important role in regional and international affairs. To China, India is a major partner of cooperation in Asia and the world. We should increase communication and coordination on major international issues to jointly uphold the overall interests of developing countries. We should promote multipolarity in the world and democracy in international relations and world to make the international political and economic order fair and more equitable.

These words bear exceptional value. They bring out in bold relief Beijing’s recognition of New Delhi as a “major partner of cooperation in Asia and the world”, not just a regional power. This coupled with China’s interest in speedily resolving the border dispute conveys a new meaning that the present Chinese leaders attach to rebuilding the edifice of Sino-Indian friendship in today’s international environment heightened by Washington’s belligerence on the global plane.

Not to notice this new approach to India from the side of the current Chinese leadership would be akin to making a grievous error in comprehending the nature of changes characterising the post-Cold War world.

November 24 S.C.

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