Chinese officials on Tuesday downplayed the recurring reports of incidents along the border with India, maintaining that a peaceful resolution to the long-running border dispute was possible if the two countries could enhance strategic co-operation and better an atmosphere that has fast soured in recent weeks.
This week, Chinese officials, like their counterparts in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, reiterated that recent media reports on frequent border incursions were not a cause for alarm. In an interaction with Indian journalists here, officials from China’s Foreign Ministry attributed the recent straining in relations more to media hype than any real cause for concern.
“We find it necessary and important to develop friendly and peaceful relations with India,” Ma Jisheng, a director general in China’s Foreign Ministry said. “Our position is that we should support better bilateral relations and we can then resolve the dispute. If we can reach a consensus on [other] strategic issues, we believe we can develop a better atmosphere to discuss the border issue. We need to focus on the whole relationship and not just the border issue.”
Both governments on Tuesday also dismissed recent reports of an exchange of fire along the border in Sikkim as “inaccurate.”
Officials on both sides of the border have said the reported border incursions by Chinese troops were regular occurrences that were more a result of different perceptions on the extent of the unresolved border rather than new signs of aggression. But, in spite regular official denials, the frequency of reports has continued to increase in recent weeks, further straining relations between the two neighbours.
Sun Weidong, an official at the Asia department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said notwithstanding recent tension, there was overall optimism in China on the general direction of ties between the two countries.
“Do we regard the relationship as good or bad? We believe the mainstream is good,” Mr. Sun said. “There has been sound momentum in the 21st century and we have begun to widen strategic co-operation.”
He said there was space for greater engagement trilaterally with Russia and also through the BRIC platform.
“China does not seek expansion,” he added. “It is in our interest to have a prosperous and stable India as neighbour, as opposed to a rival or enemy.”