Calls for both countries to "grasp each other’s strategic intent"

Describing the last year as among the least problematic in the history of India-China relations, the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) official newspaper has said in an editorial that ties with India had now turned the corner with “new features” emerging in the relationship, marked by a shift in focus from the boundary question to trade.

The unsigned editorial in the People’s Daily, which reflects the views of the top leadership, called for both countries to “grasp each other’s strategic intent” to ensure that their “growing international influence” was mutually “reinforcing,” rather than a source of rivalry.

Unsigned editorials in the newspaper are widely seen as being endorsed by the CPC’s top leadership and as the most authoritative reflections of the party’s views.

The editorial, the first prominent commentary in the paper on relations with India following last year’s leadership transition in the CPC, closely echoed the message conveyed by new General Secretary Xi Jinping in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week.

“Some new features of the relationship are now emerging,” the editorial, published on Tuesday, said. “The border issue has been controlled effectively. Technical frictions and some worries about the trade imbalance are emerging … while both countries’ international influences are growing.”

“But the problems in trade cooperation are fundamentally different from the border dispute,” the editorial noted. “The former one shows that the relationship is deepening and developing, and becoming more normal … The smooth development of trade relations will increase mutual trust and is conducive to the successful negotiation of the border issue.”

Mr. Xi, who took over following November’s Party Congress and will succeed Hu Jintao as President in March, said in the letter to Dr. Singh that China “will, as it has been doing, pay great importance to developing relations with India and expects to carry out close cooperation with India to create a brighter future of their bilateral relations.”

With the new focus of ties evolving away from bilateral issues, the editorial said both countries now needed to focus on “grasping each other’s strategic intent” to avoid a regional rivalry.

“Both China and India are big powers in this region, and have their own geopolitical interests when promoting relationships with surrounding countries. But as long as such consideration is aimed at the lasting peace of the Asian region, not taking other regional powers as rivals ... it will definitely have a positive spillover effect,” the newspaper said.

“The reinforcement of both countries’ regional and international influences,” it added, “doesn’t mean the increase of frictions between the two countries.”

Curiously, the government-run China Daily, a less influential English-language daily, published a similar editorial a day later, on Wednesday, suggesting the new leadership was looking to convey a signal on its positions with regard to India in the wake of the transition.

The editorial said the recently concluded defence dialogue and the visit of State Councillor Dai Bingguo to New Delhi last week were “positive signals” in the New Year.

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