China will look to strike a better balance in its relations with India and Pakistan and will focus on improving relations with its neighbours in the next Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), according to representatives of the country’s top foreign policy advisory body.

China would place a priority on ensuring a stable neighbourhood environment and was in favour of an early settlement of the long-running border dispute with India, members of the country’s Foreign Policy Advisory Group (FPAG), which provides inputs for the Chinese government’s diplomacy, told reporters on Friday in a briefing on the country’s priorities for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period.

“China indeed has a closer cooperation with Pakistan than India. However, after the improvement in the bilateral relationship between China and India, we sincerely hope that we can take relations forward to have a better relationship,” said Qu Xing, an FPAG member who is also president of the China Institute of International Studies.

“The best solution,” he said, “is that we should try to have such a kind of cooperation [with India] equal to that of China and Pakistan”, indicating that China should try to restore “a balance” it struck in relations with both countries in the 1950s.

The FPAG’s comments come as China looks to re-evaluate its relationship with Pakistan against the backdrop of a changing regional environment.

With the United States announcing plans for a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and amid recent strains between Washington and Islamabad, some analysts in China have called for a strengthening of ties between “all-weather” allies China and Pakistan.

But China has, so far, been cautious in taking forward ties with an eye on improving relations with the U.S. and India, recently rejecting suggestions from Pakistani officials that it was considering setting up a naval base in the country.

“While pursuing the further development of friendship with Pakistan, we are also working actively to promote friendship between China and India,” added Ma Zhenggang, a former Ambassador to the United Kingdom and member of the FPAG, which also includes former Ambassador to India Zhou Gang.

“To be frank,” Mr. Ma said, “Chinese people do not wish to see suspicions from India or Pakistan concerning China’s relationship with either country.”

He expressed confidence that the long-running boundary dispute, over which 14 rounds of talks have only achieved slow progress, could be resolved peacefully. “China has settled land border disputes with all neighbours except India,” he said. “Its settlement calls for attention from both sides…As two major countries in Asia, long standing issues are negative to our bilateral cooperation.”

He said the two countries needed to create an “enabling environment” for the settlement of the issue, suggesting that its resolution “did not concern technical problems” and was more tied up in “the emotional sentiment of the people.”

Mr. Qu said China wanted better relations between India and Pakistan because it “does not wish to see tension to the west of our country.”

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