A week ahead of the visit of its Premier Wen Jiabao to New Delhi, the Chinese government struck a positive note on its relations with India, stressing that the two countries were “partners rather than competitors.”
Mr. Wen is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on December 15 on a three-day visit to India, following which he will spend three days in Pakistan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday the visits underscored China “maintaining a high-level of exchanges with neighbouring countries.”
“Both China and India are neighbours and partners, rather than competitors,” spokesperson Jiang Yu said.
Asked if the two sides could be expected to announce any progress in the long-running boundary negotiations following the recently concluded fourteenth round of talks, Ms. Jiang only repeated China’s stated position that the border dispute was “an issue left over by history.” The two sides had agreed to address their differences through dialogue and consultation and to seek a mutually acceptable solution, she added.
Mr. Wen will be travelling to Islamabad from New Delhi, following a practice set by his predecessors, who have always visited China’s “all-weather” ally following trips to India.
China and Pakistan were “good neighbours, partners and friends” who “enjoyed all-weather friendly relations”, Ms. Jiang said.
“To consolidate China-Pakistan relations is a priority of China’s diplomacy,” she added.
China and Pakistan would “deepen strategic cooperation and establish a mechanism for formal and structured dialogue at the ministerial-level” during Mr. Wen's visit, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported. Mr. Wen is scheduled to address a joint sitting of the Pakistani parliament on December 18.
Indian officials have said that Mr. Wen choosing to travel to Pakistan following his trip to India would have no bearing on the outcome of his visit, pointing out that his doing so was expected and that he was following a long-established practice.
Officials have also stressed that with deepening engagement with China on a range of issues from trade to common global challenges like climate change, China's close ties to Pakistan were becoming less of an irritant. India would, however, strongly raise its concerns over specific issues such as Chinese investments in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and China's policies on Kashmir.
"We're no longer in an either-or, zero-sum game kind of situation,” National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said during a visit to Beijing in July. “Our relationship with China is not dependent on the state of our relations with Pakistan, or vice-versa. And judging by what we have seen in practice over the last few years, I think that is also true of China.”