Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday urged members of Indian civil society to play an active role in promoting friendly ties between India and China. He was speaking after presenting the ‘China-India Friendship Award' to nine persons here, including scholars Professor Manoranjan Mohanty and Professor Tan Chung and senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, for their “invaluable contributions” towards strengthening cooperation between the two neighbours.

“I would urge the people of India to help in the growth of friendship between the two countries. In spite of all the difficulties, more and more people should come forward and be united for this cause … Our friendship lives forever,” Mr. Wen said, recalling several instances of cooperation and friendship. Thanking Indians for their support and cooperation, particularly during the era of Chinese national liberation and development, Mr. Wen recalled the series of agreements signed between the two nations in 1954 — the five principles of peaceful coexistence or Panchsheel.

“As changes are taking place in global political and economic landscape, it is important [for us] to support and cooperate with each other. We are entering into modern times … we should support each other in nation building and development. We need to work hand in hand,” he asserted.

The Chinese Premier also recalled the contributions made by Fa-Hien, who travelled across China to spread Buddhism, Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis, who rendered medical service during the Chinese national liberation movement, and Rabindranath Tagore, who promoted literary and cultural ties. He paid special tributes to Mahatma Gandhi.

The awardees were from various fields such as business, academics, culture and media.

Professor Mohanty is a faculty member in the Council for Social Development and also Co-chairperson and Honorary Fellow in the Institute of Chinese Studies, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies; and Professor Tan Chung is a doyen of Chinese cultural studies in India for nearly half a century.

The others were Professor Sreemati Chakrabarti, who had written extensively on China on cultural and social issues; G. Viswanathan, founder-Chancellor of the VIT University, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; Chandrajit Banerjee, Director-General of the Confederation of Indian Industry; V. Bhaskaran, general secretary of the India-China Friendship Association, Karnataka, and Editor of India-China People's View; educationist B.S. Shergill, who is also president of the Friends of China Association, Chandigarh; and Pallavi Aiyar, who worked for two years as The-Hindu's correspondent in Beijing.

Thanking Mr. Wen on behalf of the awardees, Mr. Yechury highlighted the need for deeper cooperation between the world's two fastest growing economies. He expressed the hope that Mr. Wen's visit would prove a new milestone in India-China friendship.

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