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India-China relations in one of the best periods in history

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ZHANG YAN: There are no fundamental conflicts of interest between China and India.
ZHANG YAN: There are no fundamental conflicts of interest between China and India.

Zhang Yan

We share plenty of common concerns and stances on a variety of important issues concerning world peace and development, says Zhang Yan, China’s Ambassador to India.

Starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit to China in January 2008, India-China relations made steady, all-round progress over the past year. In this article, Zhang Yan, China’s Ambassador to India, raises and answers key questions that figure in the public mind about bilateral relations and on Tibet.

How do you assess the development of China-India relations over the last year?

The year 2008 witnessed the comprehensive expanding and deepening of China-India relations.

First, high-level interactions were frequent. Last year President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao held six meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on bilateral and international occasions. At the beginning of the year, Prime Minister Singh paid a successful visit to China, during which China and India signed “Shared Visions on the 21st Century,” reached a broad consensus on further pushing forward the Strategic Cooperative Partnership between the two countries, and agreed to jointly promote the building of a harmonious world featured by everlasting peace and common prosperity. Prime Minister Singh attended the Asia-Europe Meeting held in Beijing in October. Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress, attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Yu Zhengsheng, member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and party secretary of Shanghai Municipality, visited India. Our Foreign Ministers exchanged visits.

Secondly, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries maintained fast growth. In 2008, bilateral trade exceeded $ 51 billion, with an increase of 34 per cent over 2007.

Thirdly, security and defence exchanges became a highlight in our bilateral relations. The Chinese Navy Marshal visited India for the first time and the two countries held the second round of consultations on defence and security. In December 2008, China and India successfully conducted the “Join Hands-2008,” a joint army training exercise on combating terrorism, in India

Fourthly, bilateral cooperation in international and regional affairs was further strengthened. China and India maintained close coordination on issues such as climate change, the Doha Round talks, energy and food security, and the international financial crisis. They worked together for positive results at the Financial Summit of the G20 held in Washington in November 2008.

China-India relations are generally on a steady development path. The Strategic Cooperative Partnership is being further strengthened. As President Hu Jintao has pointed out, our bilateral relations are at present in one of the best periods in history and are facing a rare opportunity for development.

What exchange programmes will be carried out this year?

In 2009, President Pratibha Patil will visit China at the invitation of President Hu Jintao. This will be the first visit to China by the Indian President after she assumed office. It will be a big event that will provide new opportunities to advance bilateral relations. The Chinese side is also positively considering arranging a top-level visit to India this year.

Government sectors, legislatures, political parties, and local governments in the two countries will continue their exchanges and cooperation. Strategic dialogues and consultations on foreign policy, defence and security, and anti-terrorism will continue. Economic and trade cooperation will also make new progress. Our youth will continue their active exchanges. The two countries will start preparatory activities for holding the “Chinese Festival” in India and the “Indian Festival” in China in 2010 for the first time. We will work closely together in Asian and global affairs, including within the framework of G20 Summit.

What are the main obstacles hindering the China-India relations?

In my opinion, both countries should continue to make efforts in the following fields.

Mutual understanding and trust between the two countries need to be further strengthened. There is an urgent need for people-to-people exchanges. In 2007, the number of visitors was 570,000, which accounts for only 0.02 per cent of the population of the two countries. Of this number, only 60,000 were Chinese people coming to India and this was due largely to visa and other technical constraints. The number is incompatible with the size of our populations and the state of bilateral relations. We hope both sides will strive for some improvement in this regard.

Economic and trade cooperation can be further expanded. As two newly emerging economies, China and India hold great potential for cooperation based on our strong complementarities. Currently, problems exist in our bilateral trade such as the trade imbalance, limitations in trade scope and trade mix, and a low level of mutual investment. Statistics from India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry show that the actual investment by China accounts for merely 0.01 per cent of total foreign investment in India, ranking 63rd. We hope China and India can reach agreement on regional trade arrangements as early as possible, appropriately solve the problems in bilateral trade, and create more favourable conditions for investment by enterprises of the two countries.

Then there are still some historical issues. An early solution to these problems will definitely benefit the development of the bilateral relations.

How can Sino-India relations be further developed?

First, we should build up mutual political trust. Both sides must maintain the momentum of high-level visits. They must further promote contacts and cooperation among the government sectors, legislatures, and in the fields of culture, science and technology, and so on. They must reinforce friendly exchanges among academics, NGOs, the media, and enhance understanding between our two countries and peoples, so as to deepen mutual trust and consolidate the foundation of friendship.

Secondly, we must address the interests and concerns of each other on the basis of mutual respect, and appropriately handle the pending issues between us through equal consultations.

Thirdly, we need to constantly expand our convergence interests, and further deepen economic and commercial cooperation. We need also to strengthen bilateral coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs; actively promote multi-polarisation of the world and the democratisation of international relations; and collectively deal with the challenges, including the world financial crisis, climate change, and the food and energy crisis, so as to maintain and promote the interests of all developing countries.

Some people hold that, as two large developing countries rising at the same time, China and India face unavoidable conflicts of interest.

We welcome and look positively on the development of India. There are no fundamental conflicts of interest between China and India. On the contrary, we share plenty of common concerns and stances on a variety of important issues concerning world peace and development. It is in line with the long-term interests of both countries to further strengthen and develop good neighbourly and mutually beneficial relations.

Although there were temporary twists and turns in the past, the common interests between China and India go far beyond our differences. As the saying goes, cooperation benefits both while conflict hurts the two. I firmly believe that China and India have the will and the capability to sustain the healthy and steady development of the bilateral relations. Deng Xiaoping said in 1988 to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi: “The real Asia-Pacific Age or Asian Age could only come when China, India and some neighbouring countries become developed.” To realise this great and noble goal, both the Chinese and Indian people must make concerted efforts.

How should India and China strengthen cooperation on international issues?

As the two largest developing countries, with their combined population accounting for over two fifths of the world’s total, China and India have a relationship whose significance has gone well beyond the bilateral context and has acquired global and strategic dimensions. President Hu Jintao once said that friendly relations between China and India would not only be conducive to the two countries but also benefit Asia and the world at large. The steady and healthy development of bilateral relations will not only be good for the development of our two countries, but also produce a profound impact on the peace, stability, and prosperity of Asia and the world as a whole.

As newly emerging economies, China and India have received wide recognition by the international community for their position and role in responding to the ongoing international financial crisis. They should, on the one hand, strengthen cooperation and coordination, jointly deal with the challenges, and guard against attempts by the developed countries to shift the burden to China, India, and other developing countries. On the other hand, the two countries should actively participate in the process of the reform of the international financial system, promote the building of a fair, equitable, inclusive, and orderly global economic system, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries, including China and India, in the new round of readjustment of the global economic pattern.

How do you see the relations between India and Pakistan?

Both India and Pakistan are friendly neighbours of China. China hopes India and Pakistan will resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation, which is in the interest of both countries as well as in the interest of peace, stability, and development of the South Asia region. China condemned the Mumbai terrorist attack and expressed its condolences and sympathy to the victims. Terrorism is our common enemy. We only can win the war against terrorism by the joint efforts of all countries concerned. We sincerely look forward to the resumption of the peace-dialogue process between Indian and Pakistan at an earliest possible date.

What are the prospects of dialogue between the Chinese government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama? Why did the Chinese central government decide to celebrate “Serfs Emancipation Day”?

Talks between the Central government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama may continue if he gives up his separatist proposition, recognises Tibet and Taiwan are inalienable parts of China, and stops any violent activities. The Dalai Lama continuously denies China’s sovereignty over Tibet and seeks grounds for “Tibetan independence.” He pushes for a so-called “Greater Tibet,” which covers one quarter of China’s territory. Dalai also attempts to overthrow the current socialist system in Tibet under the name of “high-degree autonomy.” His “Middle Path” is nothing but “Tibetan independence” in disguise. There is no way for the Dalai Lama to achieve independence, semi-independence, or covert independence under the signboard of “high-degree autonomy.” In dealing with Dalai Lama, we have to watch his deeds, not just his words.

On March 10, 1959, in order to maintain the feudal serfdom under theocratic rule, a handful of serf owners supported by western countries staged an armed rebellion. The Central government took decisive action and ushered in democratic reforms in Tibet while quelling the rebellion. On March 28, 1959, the Central government dissolved the Tibetan local government, which gave freedom to one million serfs and marked a historical transformation of the Tibetan social system. On January 19, 2009, Tibetan legislators endorsed a motion setting March 28 as Serfs Emancipation Day. The setting of Serfs Emancipation Day is an important move to commemorate the democratic reforms, to remind the people, especially the younger generation, in Tibet of the history, and to cherish the new life, pursue the development path with Chinese characteristics and Tibetan features, safeguard the unity of the country, and build a democratic, rich, harmonious new Tibet.

How do you view the role of China and India in G-20 London Financial Summit?

As a responsible member of the international community, China has always been actively participating in the international cooperation in dealing with global issues, including the financial crisis. China will continue to strengthen cooperation and coordination with India in the reform of the international financial system and accelerate the establishment of a new international financial order, with a view to achieving the early recovery of the world economy while safeguarding the interests of developing countries.


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