Mr Wang is optimistic that a solution to boundary issue could be found

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who begins an official visit to New Delhi on Sunday, has expressed optimism that India and China, under the new leadership of Mr Narendra Modi, could find a solution to the vexed boundary question, by showing “strong will and resolve”. Mr Wang stressed that both sides had “more strategic consensus than differences”.

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Mr. Wang, who will on Sunday establish the first high level contact from Beijing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, called on both sides to ensure that differences over the border dispute do not “affect the normal development of our relations”.

Mr. Wang, in written responses to questions submitted by The Hindu, also revealed that President Xi Jinping had personally instructed him to visit India as his “special envoy” soon after Mr. Modi took office, underscoring the Chinese leadership’s intent to quickly establish contact with the new government in New Delhi. He also confirmed that Mr. Xi will visit India later this year - his first visit as President - although the Chinese leader will is likely to meet briefly with Mr. Modi in July on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil.

The Chinese Foreign Minister praised Prime Minister Modi for showing the world “resolve and courage” by setting an agenda to push reforms and development and for injecting “vigour and vitality” immediately after taking charge.

His comments indicate that the Chinese leadership believes Mr. Modi’s government will embark on a “reform and development” process akin to what former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping unleashed three decades ago. The Chinese government, he said, wants to invest in special industrial zones in India as well as share its experiences of reforms from 30 years ago.

“My trip brings a most important message to the people of India — China stands by your side throughout your efforts of reform and development,” Mr. Wang said. “It is a trip to convey messages and to get to know more friends.”

He said while it was “unavoidable that between neighbours, there might be certain issues left from history or some differences in immediate interests”, both countries “have much more strategic consensus than differences”.

“No country can choose its neighbour, but friendship may be fostered,” he said. “Certain issues may not be avoided, but innovative answers could be found. One can not rewrite history, but the future is in our hands.”

Mr. Wang said China “highly appreciated” India's support following a string of recent terror attacks in its western Xinjiang region. Describing terror as a common challenge, he said Beijing “stands ready to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation” - an issue that has, in the past, figured lower on the agenda considering China's ties with Pakistan.

On trade relations, the Chinese Foreign Minister acknowledged both sides were yet to make the most of the untapped potential, which he likened to “the emerging tip of a massive buried treasure that awaits your discovery”.

Last year, bilateral trade declined by 1.5 per cent on account of a slump in Indian exports of ores, propelling the trade deficit to a record $ 31.4 billion. China has proposed boosting mutual investments to bridge the gap. Mr. Wang expressed optimism that both sides would soon finalise an agreement on setting up Chinese industrial parks in India.

Excerpts of the interview

As a new government takes office in New Delhi, this is the first high-level visit from China. How does China view the future of working with the government under Prime Minister Modi?

I am very honoured to visit India as the special envoy of President Xi Jinping shortly after the new government took office. I was here in this beautiful country many times, but this trip is different. It is a trip to convey messages and to get to know more friends. It is also a trip to cement our existing friendship and explore further cooperation. India was a cradle of splendid ancient civilisation, and I am glad to see this country gaining new vigour and vitality.

Less than two weeks into office, the new Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has already shown to the world its resolve and courage in pushing forward reform and development, and its sincerity and enthusiasm in seeking friendship and cooperation with other countries. The international community, impressed by the great opportunities in India, is full of confidence in the future of the country.

My trip brings a most important message to the people of India — China stands by your side throughout your efforts of reform and development, and your pursuit of dreams. China is ready to work with our Indian friends for an even brighter future of our strategic and cooperative partnership.

How does China view the current situation along the boundary?

The boundary question is indeed a difficult one, but with strong will and resolve, we will eventually find a solution. Even if we could not resolve it for the time being, we could at least manage it effectively, not allowing it to affect the normal development of our relations. Thanks to our joint efforts, the border areas between China and India have on the whole enjoyed peace and stability over the past 30 years and more. What has happened proves that as long as we respect and accommodate each other’s concerns, and insist on managing differences through dialogues instead of confrontation, we are surely able to properly handle the boundary question, and to reduce its impact on our bilateral relations to the minimum level.

The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed last year represents further efforts by the two sides to strengthen communication and properly manage differences on the basis of a series of existing mechanisms related to the boundary question. It will help increase direct engagement and mutual trust between the Chinese and Indian border troops and promote peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

It is unavoidable that between neighbours, there might be certain issues left from history or some differences in immediate interests. However, let me emphasise that China and India have much more strategic consensus than differences, and cooperation is our top priority. No country can choose its neighbour, but friendship may be fostered. Certain issues may not be avoided, but innovative answers could be found. One cannot rewrite history, but the future is in our hands.

On the trade front, both sides have been discussing setting up China-dedicated industrial parks in India. What is the current status?

To carry out cooperation on industrial zones is one of the important agreements reached between leaders of the two countries. An important piece of experience we have drawn from China’s sustained and rapid economic growth over the past 30 years and more is the setting up of development zones to attract foreign investment with preferential policies and promote cluster development of industries. China is willing to share its experience and cooperate with India in this regard.

At the current stage, competent authorities of the two countries are negotiating on relevant agreements, which are expected to be finalised and signed soon. China has sent a delegation to India to inspect the prospective sites of the zones. To my knowledge, some Chinese businesses are already on the move and have begun construction on the ground. We hope that India will introduce more preferential policies and investment facilitation for Chinese businesses so that we can push for early, substantive outcome of such cooperation and foster signature projects of China-India practical cooperation.

China recently suffered a series of terror attacks. Considering the increasing and common challenges faced by both countries in this regard, do you see any room for India and China to do more on counterterrorism cooperation?

Recently, China was hit by a number of serious violent terrorist attacks. The Indian government publicly stated its position immediately after the attacks, standing together with China and condemning the terrorist attacks. China highly appreciates India’s position.

China and India, both being victims of terrorism, share common interests and face similar challenges in counter-terrorism, and enjoy broad prospects for cooperation in this area. The two sides have already had good cooperation in terrorism-related issues, including policy exchange and joint exercises. Going forward, China stands ready to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation with India to better safeguard the common security interests of the two countries.

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