China’s new leader Xi Jinping has indicated that he will look to follow his predecessor’s policies in engaging with India and seek continuity in bilateral ties, as the new leadership in Beijing takes control following a once-in-ten year change.
Mr. Xi on Tuesday echoed his predecessor Hu Jintao’s suggestion, made during a visit to India last year, of a “five-point proposal” to improve ties with India. Mr. Hu, the former Chinese President, during a visit to India in 2012 had called for maintaining high-level contacts; expanding economic complementarities; boosting people-to-people ties and multilateral cooperation; and for both countries to “properly handle” their differences in his proposal.
The new Chinese leader, who took over from Mr. Hu last week, spoke of a similar five-pronged proposal in an interaction with a group of reporters from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of countries held ahead of his first overseas State visit to Russia and South Africa for the BRICS Summit later this month.
Mr. Xi proposed five steps to boost ties: “First, to maintain strategic communication and keep bilateral relations on the right track. Second, we should harness each other’s comparative strength and expand win-win cooperation in infrastructure, mutual investment and other areas. Third, we should strengthen cultural ties and constantly
increase mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples. Fourth, we should expand coordination and collaboration in multilateral affairs to jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and tackle global challenges. Fifth, we should accommodate each other’s core concerns and properly handle problems and differences existing between the two countries,” the Chinese President said, according a transcript made available.
Mr. Xi’s comments suggest the new Chinese leadership will largely continue with the previous administration’s approach to India, which emphasised boosting economic ties and cooperation on multilateral issues, while at the same time appearing less willing to engage on more difficult issues such as the border dispute, transboundary rivers and China's ongoing projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Mr. Xi suggested any breakthrough on the long-running boundary dispute remained unlikely, describing the border issue as “complex”.
“The boundary question is a complex issue left over from history and solving the issue will not be easy. However, as long as we keep up our friendly consultation we can eventually arrive at a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. Pending the final settlement, the two sides should work together to maintain peace and tranquility in border areas and prevent the boundary question from affecting the all-round development in ties.”
Mr. Xi is expected to have his first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later this month on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in South Africa. In a letter to Dr. Singh earlier this year, the new CPC General Secretary said he was of the view that “the world has enough space for China and India to achieve common development, and the world also needs common development.”
He reiterated that message on Tuesday. “China and India have a traditional friendship. We are the two largest developing countries in the world and combined population exceeds 2.5 billion,” he said.
“To jointly follow the path of peaceful development and development through cooperation meets the common interests of the two countries. China sees its relations with India as one of the most important bilateral relationships and is committed to pushing forward the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership. We should seize these opportunities and take solid steps to bolster exchange and cooperation in all fields and take China India relations to a new height.”