Both countries should "support each other and learn from each other", says Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin

A top Chinese diplomat said on Sunday that China would “make concerted efforts” to improve relations with India in 2012, in comments seen as an attempt to draw a line over recent differences that have strained ties between the neighbours.

“China hopes that the two sides will support each other and learn from each other, so as to push for better and faster development of the Sino-Indian strategic and cooperative partnership,” said Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.

The rare remarks by a Chinese official on relations with India were made in an interview on Sunday with the State-run Xinhua news agency.

Mr. Liu said China was “willing to make joint efforts with India” to “enhance strategic mutual trust” and “properly handle issues concerning the bilateral relationship”.

His comments came after a string of recent commentaries in more nationalistic party-run media outlets had taken a hard line on India, accusing New Delhi of being part of a U.S.-led “containment” strategy and looking to provoke China into disputes.

Only on Friday, the Communist Party-run Global Times blamed the Indian Ministry of External Affairs for being “full of narrow nationalism” for issuing an advisory and “hyping” up a trade dispute that saw two Indian traders being detained in the southern city of Yiwu.

Both Indian and Chinese officials have, however, been keen to quickly defuse any strains from particular disputes that have cropped up in recent weeks, looking to ensure that overall ties are not derailed by individual incidents.

Mr. Liu said both countries had maintained “growing momentum” in developing the relationship, and had “established effective communication and coordination on significant international and regional issues”.

“A steadily growing Sino-Indian partnership will not only bring benefits to the two peoples, but it will also be conducive to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world at large,” he added.

He said exchanges during 2011, which had been marked as the “year of exchanges” between the neighbours, had helped “increase mutual understanding”, citing the visit of a 500-member Indian youth delegation to Beijing.

Two-way trade, he said, had reached US$ 67.28 billion during the first 11 months of last year, a 21.8 per cent year-on-year rise.

Mr. Liu said the past year also saw the first meeting of the newly set up strategic economic dialogue and the annual defence dialogue, which was held in New Delhi last month after an almost two-year hiatus.

Indian officials said on Saturday that a 15-member military delegation from India will leave for China on a four-day visit on Tuesday. India agreed to send a truncated delegation following Chinese objections to issue a visa to an Indian Air Force (IAF) official from Arunachal Pradesh, who was slated to travel as part of a 30-member group.

The decision to go ahead with the visit, officials in New Delhi had said, reflected a desire by both countries "to keep the ship on an even keel” and move ties forward in the coming year, despite persisting differences on a number of issues.

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