India and China sent a clear signal to the rest of the world on Monday that their economic and demographic clout would play a decisive role in shaping the 21st century.
<b1>Building on a much-improved bilateral relationship, prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao signed a joint declaration titled "A Shared Vision for the 21st Century" at the Great Hall of the People. In another advance over previous formulations, China supported India’s aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations, including in the Security Council.
Wen told the press corps that India and China were "partners, not rivals". Each had its own strength and they would "not ask" who will outdo the other. Singh, on his part, said the two countries had a historic opportunity to work for peace and development in the 21st century. They promised to explore together with other countries a "new architecture" for closer regional cooperation in Asia and make "joint efforts" for further Asian integration.
The leaders said India-China relations were not "targeted at any country" nor would these affect their friendship with other countries — language which previously figured in India, China, Russia trilateral statements.
On the bilateral front, they mandated their commerce ministers to explore the possibility of commencing negotiations on a "high quality" Regional Trading Arrangement, stopping short of an expected announcement to begin such talks.
Reiterating their desire to resolve the border issue, the vision document committed the two sides to building a "boundary of peace and friendship" on the basis of the April 2005 agreement on political parameters and guiding principles to approach the dispute.
"The special representatives (dealing with the border issue) shall complete at an early date the task of arriving at an agreed framework of settlement on the basis of this (April 2005) agreement."
Taking forward their 2006 accord, the two countries pledged to promote bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy, consistent with their respective international commitments. The Chinese also agreed to consider a visit to India by the head of their atomic energy agency, officials said.
Whether it was climate change, a new energy order or global trade negotiations, the two leaders signaled they were up to the task of setting a new global agenda given that they were home to one-third of humanity.
On climate change, they agreed to work closely "during the negotiation process on the post-Bali" agenda to tackle global warming. They emphasised the importance of tackling the issue as per the UN convention and Kyoto protocol, in particular the principle of "common, but differentiated responsibilities".
"The two sides are convinced that it is in the common interest of the international community to establish an international energy order that is fair, equitable, secure and stable…" the document said, adding a commitment to diversify the global energy mix and enhance the share of clean and renewable energy.
Calling for an early conclusion of the Doha round of trade talks, India and China said they were determined to strengthen their coordination with other developing countries in order to "secure their shared objectives".
In the new century, the five principles of Panchsheel, or peaceful co-existence, could serve as the basis of good relations not just between India and China, but the rest of the world.
"The two sides hold that the right of each country to choose its own path of social, economic and political development in which fundamental human rights and the rule of law are given their due place, should be respected," the document said.
Reflecting the Chinese desire to preserve its unique party-based political system, it stressed: "The two sides favour an open and inclusive international system and believe that drawing lines on the ground of ideologies and values, or on geographical criteria, is not conducive to peaceful and harmonious co-existence." "There was a passing reference to Tibet," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said at a briefing while in the vision document India reiterated its "one China" policy.