The Five Principles have withstood the test of time and made significant contributions to the cause of world peace and progress

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Six decades ago, during Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s visits to India and Myanmar, Mr. Enlai along with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Myanmar Prime Minister U Nu issued joint statements and initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which are mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Since then, these principles have been widely recognised and observed by the international community, and have served as basic norms of state-to-state relations. They have withstood the test of time and made significant contributions to the cause of world peace and progress.

Historical background

The Five Principles prevailed against specific historical backgrounds. After World War II, the global colonial system collapsed and a large number of national states emerged independent in Asia and Africa. The most urgent task for these countries at the time was to safeguard national independence and sovereignty, prevent external invasion or interference, and establish relations with other countries on an equal footing, so as to strive for a peaceful international environment. China, India and Myanmar are among those countries that first won national independence in Asia and jointly initiated the Five Principles. In April 1955, the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, adopted these Principles. Since then, they have been written into a large number of important international documents.

The world today is very much different from that of six decades ago, with peace, development and cooperation becoming the trend of the times. China, India and Myanmar, along with other emerging markets and developing countries, are becoming more and more important in the international arena. While the international situation is moving toward a direction more in favour of peace and development, the world today is still faced with many difficulties and challenges. We still have a long way to go to establish an international order that is more just and reasonable. Under the new circumstances, we should continue to uphold and implement the Five Principles.

The first is to firmly safeguard sovereign equality among all states and stand against interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. The second is to actively seek peaceful and common development in order to realise our common dream. The third is to promote the New Security Concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and advocate common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. The fourth is to fully respect diversity of the world and encourage various civilisations, cultures and religions to respect one another. The fifth is to push the process of multi-polarisation and support larger representation and influence of developing countries in international affairs.

China and India are among the first to initiate the Five Principles, which have been the cornerstone of our respective foreign policies. Over the years, the Five Principles have helped us to properly handle our bilateral issues left over by history, such as the Tibet-related issue and the boundary question. We have pushed forward all-around cooperation in political, economic, cultural and other areas, established the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, and become good neighbours.

India-China relations

Today, China and India are both faced with the task of developing the economy and improving people’s lives; therefore, both need a peaceful and stable neighbourhood and global environment. As two important emerging markets and members of BRICS, both countries wish to improve existing international governance, so that emerging markets and developing countries can have more say in international affairs. Compared to the situation six decades ago, the Five Principles have become more relevant to China-India relations. We should continue to uphold and carry forward this common property.

First, we will continue to respect each other and accumulate mutual trust. For historical reasons, there remain some outstanding issues between China and India. We should draw wisdom from the Five Principles, always treat China-India relations from a strategic viewpoint, and take stock of the whole situation, with full confidence that we have far more common interests than differences.

Second, we will continue to carry out practical cooperation based on mutual benefit. As neighbouring countries with the largest populations and greatest market potentials, China and India are highly complementary in economy, and are natural partners of cooperation. We are both implementing a 12th “Five-Year Plan.” China’s further opening up to the West echoes well with India’s “Look East” policy. China and India should give full play to each other’s advantages, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, cooperate on the BCIM Economic Corridor, the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and establish a China and India double-engine powered “Trans-Himalaya Economic Growth Region,” so that our dreams of development and prosperity can interconnect.

Third, we will continue to treat each other on an equal footing. We should proceed from overall interests of bilateral relations and handle the boundary question through peaceful and friendly negotiations to find a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. Before that, we should improve relevant mechanisms on border affairs, properly manage differences and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. With regard to the issues of trade imbalance and transborder rivers, we should treat each other on an equal footing, give full consideration to each other’s concerns and find a proper solution.

Fourth, we will continue to promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges to foster friendship among our two nations.

We should be inspired by our ancestors and encourage more youth, media, academia and other people-to-people exchanges to promote mutual understanding. And we should pass on our friendship from generation to generation, in order to make new contributions to world peace and development.

(Wei Wei is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to India.)

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