Amid concerns over its attempts to increase its influence in South Asia, China has described India as its "partner and not rival" and expressed willingness to work with New Delhi and other SAARC members to improve regional connectivity.
"From my point of view, China and India are partners, not rivals. In recent years, China-India relations have seen strong momentum of growth thanks to the consensus of both leaders," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said after returning from her visit to Bhutan and Nepal, where she held in-depth talks with the leaders of the two countries.
In an interview to the state-run China Daily, Fu, outlining China's policy initiatives in South Asia, said improvement of this country's relations with SAARC will not hurt interests of other nations.
Asked about the strategic rivalry between India and China in the region in the context of Bhutan and Nepal's close ties with India, Fu, an ethnic Mongol, said China's effort to improve relations with all South Asian countries, including Bhutan and Nepal, is "not targeted at any third country, nor will it hurt the interests of other nations. Instead, it willonly add to the common prosperity of the region."
"China is also ready to expand cooperation with India in promoting regional development. For example, the need for connectivity can be better met if China, India and South Asian countries work together and avail themselves of the good opportunity offered by the strong growth in the region," she said.
This is apparently the first time that China talked about "connectivity" linking China and SAARC countries.
China has just opened its railway link with the Association of South East Asian (ASEAN) countries, which is expected to significantly boost its trade with the 10-member bloc.