The two countries should not let go of the hard earned momentum of cooperation but instead cherish it, the Chinese government said on Thursday in a guarded reaction to India test firing the nuclear-capable Agni-V missile that can reach deep inside China.
"China and India are both emerging powers. We are not rivals but cooperative partners. We should cherish the hard-earned momentum of cooperation," Liu Weimin, foreign ministry spokesperson said when asked whether the missile launch could have security implications for China.
China had taken note of reports about India's missile launch, Liu said, adding: "the two countries have a sound relationship. During the (recent) 4th Brics meeting the leadership of the two countries agreed on a consensus to further strengthen cooperation."
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China has its own secretive ballistic missile programme and is reported to possess hundreds of nuclear warheads. Its missiles, reports say, have major Indian cities within target. Beijing is also known to have aided the missile programmes of both Pakistan and North Korea.
The spokesperson said the need of the hour was to "push forward the bilateral strategic and cooperative partnership."
On the question whether the launch would impact regional stability, Liu said: "We hope Asian countries can contribute to regional stability and peace."
Even though the government was cautious, it allowed the tightly state-controlled media to point out that China was much ahead of India as far as military strength was concerned.
"India should not overestimate its strength. Even if it has missiles that could reach most parts of China that does not mean it will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China. India should be clear that China's nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China," the Global Times newspaper said.
It further added: "China understands the Indian desire to catch up with China. China, as the most appropriate strategic target for India, is willing to take India as a peaceful competitor. Due to historical reasons, China and India are sensitive toward each other. But objectively speaking, China does not spend much time guarding against India, while India focuses a lot of attention on China."
The state television CCTV followed the launch through the day, carrying the news under the headline: "Show of Force.""The missile launch will not help solve border disputes. Accuracy (of the missile) is a vital question. Several tests needed," Su Xiaohui, a scholar at the China Institute of International Studies, a think-tank attached to the foreign ministry, told CCTV in an interview.