“Choice of India as the first leg” of his maiden overseas tour significant, says Xinhua

The three-day visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India, starting on Sunday, will reflect the “forward-looking” intentions of the new leadership in Beijing to reboot bilateral ties despite the recent mistrust, State media commentaries have suggested a day ahead of the visit.

The “choice of India as the first leg” of Mr. Li's maiden overseas tour as Premier “sent out a clear signal that Beijing’s new leadership prioritises enhancing ties with New Delhi despite border spats and other disputes,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary issued on Saturday.

Official media outlets have, in recent days, played down differences with India, particularly over the border issue, in the wake of the recent stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

The Xinhua commentary suggested that the “swift cooling-down” from “the latest border spat” had reaffirmed that both sides were “looking at the big picture of their ties, instead of being carried away by incidental matters.”

“The China-India relationship is more about the future than about the past. It is with such a forward-looking mind that China’s new leadership has decided to take new initiatives to further deepen bilateral ties and mutual trust,” the commentary said. “Li’s upcoming trip will be a crucial step in that direction.”

Separately on Saturday, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, The People’s Daily, published a commentary authored by the Chinese Ambassador to India, Wei Wei, saying Mr. Li’s visit “will open a new chapter in Sino-Indian relations.”

Mr. Wei wrote that China did not have “the strategic intent to contain India,” saying that “there are no such things as ‘string of pearls’ that China is planning to build against India in the Indian Ocean.”

“China has legitimate interest in the Indian Ocean, and India also has legitimate interest in the Pacific,” Mr. Wei said. “These are not in contradiction with each other.”

On the boundary issue, Mr. Wei, who took over in January, said both countries “need to have enough confidence in peaceful and friendly consultations through existing bilateral mechanisms, and to promote proper settlement of related issues as soon as possible”.

“To achieve this goal,” he said, “both sides have to be rational, they should properly control their differences, refrain from upgrading the issue, and not let the problems affect the overall situation of Sino-Indian relations.”

Trade imbalance

On the widening trade imbalance and India’s concerns on the management of trans-boundary rivers on account of Chinese plans to build dams on the Brahmaputra – two issues expected to figure prominently during Mr. Li’s visit – Mr. Wei said:, “As long as the two sides have mutual understanding on the basis of mutual trust, take good care of each other’s concerns and interests, they will be able to find a proper solution to the problem.”

While acknowledging that both countries “cannot fully restore mutual trust without resolving the border dispute,” the Xinhua commentary suggested that “good faith in each other’s strategic intentions” could raise the level of trust.

Alluding to India’s concerns over certain aspects of China’s ties with Pakistan, the commentary said China had “never sought to enhance ties with any other country at the expense of its relationship with India.” It added, in an apparent reference to the U.S. “pivot” or rebalancing to Asia, seen by many Beijing analysts as a containment strategy, that it was “Beijing’s belief that India, an early advocate of the non-aligned movement, will pursue its China policy at its own will without being part of the schemes of other powers.”