A senior official said on Monday said the Chinese government was "confident" that the new government that takes charge in New Delhi following the Lok Sabha elections - no matter which party was in power - would ensure friendly ties with Beijing, as both sides held strategic talks aimed at laying the groundwork for a series of high-level engagements in coming months.
"We are confident that to promote China-India friendship is a shared consensus of all political parties in India. So I am confident that whichever party comes into power in India it will stay committed to friendship and cooperation between the two countries", Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who is also the Foreign Ministry's main interlocutor on India, told reporters, speaking ahead of the sixth round of the annual strategic dialogue, which took place in Beijing at the Diaoyutai State guesthouse on Monday.
He told Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh at the start of the talks that China "highly appreciates" that the strategic dialogue was being held despite the fact that India was occupied with the ongoing elections.
"I wish to mention in particular that India is undergoing a very important election. Therefore you have chosen to come to China at this very special time to have this strategic dialogue with us. This shows the tremendous importance that the Indian government and you yourself attach to this bilateral relationship and we highly appreciate that," he said.
Ms. Singh said the aim of her visit was "to reiterate to the government of China that the government of India attaches the highest priority to India's relations with China".
The message from officials of both countries is that the dialogue here will stress continuity in ties at a functional-level even as political engagements remain on hold on account of the elections.
Besides bilateral engagements, the dialogue will look at the entire breadth of the relationship as well as common regional concerns such as the situation in Afghanistan. India and China have expressed willingness to do more to coordinate their efforts there, including on joint projects.
Mr. Liu said the bilateral relationship "has already gone beyond the bilateral scope". "Naturally, besides bilateral cooperation we are also going to talk about regional and international issues. We can see three levels of India-China cooperation: on the bilateral-level, regional-level and international-level. It is a very important bilateral relationship".
"We hope in today's dialogue we will have the opportunity to have an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and those efforts to implement the consensus achieved by leaders of both countries, discuss important arrangements for bilateral exchanges this year, discuss cooperation between the two counties in various areas and exchange views on issues regional and internationally [where we have] shared interests," he added.
The talks will also firm up what officials described as "a packed calendar" of bilateral visits in the coming year, which is being marked as "a year of friendly exchanges".
A highlight could be the first visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to India. Mr. Xi has expressed his desire to visit India later this year on what would be his first trip to the country after taking over as President in March 2013, as The Hindu first reported last month.
Monday's strategic dialogue will be followed by a high-level military-level dialogue in New Delhi next week, when a People's Liberation Army (PLA) delegation led by the Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, travels to India for DGMO-level talks on the boundary issue, to be held on April 22.
The talks will also firm up plans for annual defence exercises, which will be held in India later this year. Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan is also expected to visit India later this year.
Next week, the two Navies are also slated to have talks with a delegation from India set to visit Qingdao, the north-eastern headquarters of the PLA Navy's North Sea fleet, where the PLA is hosting an international fleet review to mark its 65th anniversary.
The stealth frigate INS Shivalik will participate in the review.
China had invited India's Navy chief to Qingdao, but following the resignation of Navy Chief D.K. Joshi a month ago and a successor yet to be appointed, the Navy will send a "fairly high-ranking" officer to lead the delegation, officials said.