India and China have learnt lessons from the ups and downs of the 60 years of bilateral ties, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao believes, as she emphasises that the two Asian giants should regard each other's rise as an opportunity rather than a challenge.
In China for the fourth round of Strategic Dialogue, Rao said the relationship between India and China - the two most populous countries of the world - will be the world's most important relationship of the century.
"Both China and India should regard each other's rise as an opportunity, not a challenge," Rao said in an interview to state-run Xinhua news agency.
India and China, whose ties have been marred by unresolved boundary disputes, have over the years also substantially improved trade exchanges.
In fact, China is India's largest trade partner at present and bilateral trade is set to touch USD 60 billion this year.
Rao said the two neighbours have learned lessons in the six decades since the two countries established diplomatic relations, and have a foundation to further improve ties, Xinhua said.
"We have had times of difficulty in the relationship, at certain points of time. But despite those difficulties, we managed to raise the level of our dialogue and strengthen our cooperation to create an architecture for dialogue between our two countries. That should be the basis for what we do in the future," she said.
She also cited comments by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the East Asia Summit in October that "there is enough space for India and China to grow together."
Rao stressed that despite difference with China, all schools of thought in India agreed on building a stable and productive relationship "where we can talk to each other frankly as friends and look at the issues that remain to be resolved."
She also called for deeper mutual understanding at the grassroots level of the two societies and for more people-to-people exchanges. "Chinese young people should visit my country, travel around and study India's fascinating culture more closely," Rao said.
"We must understand that the relationship between India and China is going to be, in my view, the most important relationship in the 21st century," Rao added.
Rao said the G20 summit in Seoul was fruitful particularly in putting development issues onto the agenda.