"There is no power in the world that can prevent the development of bilateral relations," China says following Friday’s meeting in Bali

Following Friday’s meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Bali, China has called for closer economic cooperation and better ties with India, playing down recent differences over the South China Sea and the border dispute that have strained the relationship.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday appeared to suggest differences with India had been driven by third parties, echoing recent editorials in the State media that have blamed the United States for sowing discord between China its neighbours and attempting to "contain" China.

"There is no power in the world that can prevent the development of bilateral relations between the two countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said at a briefing on Monday.

Friday’s meeting between Dr. Singh and Mr. Wen, he said, had seen both countries agree to a “consensus” to push forward ties, particularly in the economic domain.

They had also agreed to create “create favourable conditions for the free flow of commodities, technology, finance and services,” as well as encourage enterprises to invest more in projects across the border.

Dr. Singh told Mr. Wen India was “ready to work with China to implement various consensuses,” and viewed the strategic cooperative partnership as “beneficial to the benefit of both countries,” Mr. Liu said.

Recent differences between both countries also found mention in Friday’s meeting, including the South China Sea issue and the long-running boundary dispute, over which both countries will hold the fifteenth round of negotiations in New Delhi next week.

South China Sea issue

Mr. Wen had reiterated, both during last week’s summit and in talks with Dr. Singh, that China was opposed to the involvement of countries “not directly involved” in the dispute.

India, however, had stressed that the cooperation between ONGC Videsh and Vietnam, which is among at least ten countries that, along with China, have competing claims, was purely commercial.

Asked how discussions on ONGC's on-going cooperation with Vietnam transpired during Friday's meeting between the leaders, Mr. Liu said: “We don’t hope to see outside forces involved in the South China Sea dispute, and do not want to see foreign companies engage in activities that will undermine China’s sovereignty and rights and interests.”

China "not isolated"

At last week's East Asia Summit, China had also voiced its opposition to discussing the dispute over the South China Sea, over which it claims “indisputable sovereignty”, saying that unlike its neighbours, it favoured negotiating on a bilateral basis with the countries involved.

China was eventually forced to soften its stand, and agree to some discussions with the 17 other leaders present. According to the State-run Xinhua news agency, Mr. Wen had said he “did not want to discuss this issue at the summit.” "However, leaders of some countries mentioned China on the issue,” he reportedly said. “It’s impolite not to make a return for what one receives. So, I am willing to reiterate China’s stance.”

Asked if China had found itself isolated over its position, Mr. Liu said: “I do not agree with the term 'isolation' that you used. In general, the meeting centred on the theme of cooperation, development and solidarity, and has yielded practical results.”

"On the South China Sea, Premier Wen’s statement is clear,” he said. “That is, the East Asia Summit is not an appropriate venue for discussion of South China Sea issue.”

"China’s position on this,” he added, “is clear and consistent. That is, the dispute should be solved between countries directly concerned through friendly consultation and negotiation. Outside intervention, or bringing the issue to a multilateral forum, will only complicate the issue and will not help resolve the issue.”

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