On the same day the Chinese envoy in New Delhi termed India-China relations ‘fragile,’ Beijing pitched the relationship as a ‘friendship from generation to generation’ to smoothen the road for Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to New Delhi this week.
“The visit is a big event for India-China relations,’’ assistant foreign minister Hu Zhengyue told the media in Beijing at a briefing announced just the previous night.
“We do not exclude the possibility of discussion on any issue,’’ said Hu. The officials did not reveal political agreements to be signed before Wen heads from India to Pakistan where he will firm up massive Chinese support in energy, transport and road-reconstruction in flood-damaged areas.
In India, boosting bilateral business and Chinese collaborations in building urban Indian infrastructure will be a highlight of his visit. A commerce ministry official at the briefing sought to allay Indian concerns over the growing trade deficit even as bilateral trade with China booms to a 60 billion dollar target.
There was an effort to put India-China relations in their own identity distinct from US influence. Hu noted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has met Chinese Presidnet Hu Jintao and Wen 10 times this year.
“India-China relations have a bright prospect for the future. Both countries have more than one billion people. India-China relations have nothing to do with India-US relations,’’ Hu replied to a query on the growing closeness between India and the US. “Bilateral and trilateral relations should be mutually reinforcing.”
India’s candidature for a permanent place on the UN Security Council will be discussed, he confirmed. “We are happy to see India play a bigger role in the international arena including the UN,’’ Hu said, sticking to the official Chinese position. He said the issue of stapled Chinese visas would be discussed at the ‘working-level’.
Xinhua quoted the Indian ambassador in Beijing saying that both sides managed their differences. S Jaishankar said most bilateral problem issues were historic, and in other cases, ‘the old mindset still prevails’. “The question boils down to whether one recognises the reality of growing inter-dependence in the contemporary world,” he was quoted saying, adding that the risks of not getting along were high.
Chinese analysts are commenting more cautiously than officials on the week ahead. In Shanghai, South Asia strategist Shen Dingli told HT Wen’s visit is a ‘regular’ visit. “It is such constant exchange that will help improve relations.”
Beijing said Wen’s visit to Pakistan will ‘add vigour and vitality’ to ties and intensify cooperation in regional and international affairs.
Asked about China’s plans to build a 1 GW nuclear power plant in Pakistan, the official replied that civilian nuclear energy cooperation with Pakistan was based on agreements signed in 2003 and that the IAEA would be informed in a ‘timely manner’ to ensure safeguards.