It has become increasingly less relevant to bilateral ties, in spite of recent tensions.

Indian and Chinese officials on Tuesday struck a positive note on Sino-Indian ties, saying the long-running border dispute had become increasingly less relevant to bilateral relations, in spite of renewed tensions seen in recent months.

Speaking in Washington, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said ties between the two countries had “improved significantly” in the last two decades to a “multi-dimensional relationship,” which was “not just focused on the boundary question.”

Her comments were favourably received in Beijing, where officials said continued engagement between the two countries on various fronts would help create the conditions for resolving the border issue, over which talks have made little progress so far.

The two countries had made “significant progress” in enhancing relations in various other fields and taking ties beyond the border issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said.

“China is ready to work with the Indian side to enhance the friendship and to be good partners,” he said in reply to a question on Ms. Rao's comments. He said differences over the border were “inevitable,” but what was important was that leaders of the two countries had reached consensus to “properly handle” the dispute, pending a final resolution.

“With the development of relations between China and India, China believes the border issue will gradually be resolved,” Mr. Qin said.

Tuesday's statements mark a striking departure from the barbs the two governments routinely traded over the boundary dispute for much of last year.

In a speech in London in February, Ms. Rao described the relationship between the two countries as a “dynamic equilibrium” of both “competition and collaboration,” although only one aspect of that equation was most evident last year. As recently as October, China accused India of “stirring up trouble” along the border areas, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh during Assembly elections in the State, parts of which China claims. Beijing then accused New Delhi of “disregarding its grave concerns,” while China's State-run media launched a coordinated onslaught accusing India of “recklessness and arrogance.”

Officials in Beijing point to the October 24 meeting between Dr. Singh and his counterpart, Wen Jiabao, in Hua Hin, Thailand, as playing a vital role in calming the tensions. The two sides agreed then to refrain from publicly voicing any differences, and instead use official mechanisms to discuss issues.

One senior Chinese official told The Hindu that following the meeting, officials at the Foreign Ministry here held regular meetings with State-run media outlets, including the nationalistic Communist Party-run People's Daily and its English-version Global Times newspaper, instructing them to cool down their anti-India rhetoric. State media here have also struck a noticeably warmer tone towards India following co-operation between the two countries at the climate summit in Copenhagen last year, which was framed as a battle between the developing world and the West.