Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invoked their personal rapport on Monday to underline warming ties between the two Asian giants following decades of mistrust, especially over their unresolved territorial disputes.
Xi and Modi’s separate messages during foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s three-day visit indicated an attempt to set aside differences in the run-up to the Indian prime minister’s trip in May.
Xi said Sino-Indian relations had entered a new stage since his visit to India as he recalled his “cherished” visit to Gujarat last September after welcoming Swaraj at the Great Hall of the People.
Swaraj was in China for a host of meetings, including one with her Russian counterpart, which were seen in diplomatic circles as efforts to iron out any irritants in the lead-up to Modi’s visit.
“I particularly cherish the fond memories of my trip to Prime Minister Modi’s hometown,” said Xi, recalling his visit to Ahmedabad where he was hosted by Modi on the Sabarmati riverfront.
“The positive side of China-India relations has been growing. Solid steps are being taken to implement agreements between Prime Minister Modi and me. I have full confidence on the future of China and India relations. I believe good progress will be achieved in the growth of bilateral relations.”
Modi was equally effusive in a video message after Swaraj inaugurated the Visit India Year, 2015, in Beijing. “We also recall President Xi’s visit to India,” said the prime minister. “I have a personal bond with China.”
”What I felt in China it was amazing. There was always a feeling that I should have had more time whenever I went to China,” Modi said in probably the first video-message from an Indian Prime Minister addressed to the Chinese people.
He wished the Chinese on the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, the biggest festival in China.
Modi said: “Our rich heritage gave a lot to people of both the countries. The future is ours. It is important to understand each other, it is only possible if we have people to people exchange on a large scale.”
Ties between India and China have warmed recently, but the festering border dispute remains a stumbling block in the way of improving political ties. After two decades of talks, the two countries are still no closer to a resolution of the border dispute over which they went to war in 1962.
Modi’s tour signals his government’s intention to boost its Beijing bonhomie and counterbalance perceptions of a pro-US tilt during President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi as chief guest of this year’s Republic Day.
Xi’s high-profile visit to India last September and Premier Li Keqiang’s visit in 2013 were both marred by incursions by Chinese soldiers across the disputed border between the two countries, sending confusing signals to New Delhi about Beijing’s intentions.
Chinese official media said on Monday India’s pragmatic approach to diplomacy will play a crucial role in the expanding multilateralism in the world as Swaraj wrapped up her packed visit.
Xinhua, the official news agency, said in a commentary Swaraj came to China even as the “excitement” over US President Barack Obama’s visit to India “still lingers” – indicating that India doesn’t want to engage the US alone but also with its “two giant northern neighbours”.
“For India, which aspires to become a leading player on both regional and global arenas, it pays off by adopting a pragmatic approach in diplomacy: instead of purely looking to the West to heed every move in Washington, it also attaches great importance to relations with its two giant northern neighbors,” Xinhua said.