A day after India aired apprehensions about Beijing trying to gain a "foothold" in South Asia, China on Tuesday underlined that it is an "important member" of Asia and is willing to work with India for peace and stability in the region.
"I would like to say that China is one of the important members of Asia and we are committed to safeguarding peace and stability of Asia, including South Asia, with other countries to seek common development and this is in the common interest of all of us," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said in her daily briefing in Beijing.
"China and India as neighbours and newly emerging powers, good neighbourliness and friendship in pursuit of common development serve the common interests of both the parties," she said.
"We are willing to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia and we are willing to work on the basis of the five principles of peaceful coexistence to work along with South Asian countries, including India, to develop good neighbourliness and cooperation," she said.
New Delhi has taken note of Jiang's comments and welcomed it, but made it clear that it will continue to be "watchful" of India's activities in the region, sources said.
Jiang's remarks came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told senior journalists in Delhi that China was seeking to expand its influence in South Asia and gain a "foothold" in the region.
"China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality. We have to be aware of this," he said.
Manmohan Singh also stressed that India has to take "adequate precautions", but can't give up on peaceful resolution of issues with China.
Relations between the two Asian powers continued to be a mix of competition and cooperation, the prime minister had said while responding to queries on the state of India-China relations after Beijing denied visa to a senior Indian Army General on grounds that his command included Jammu and Kashmir.
India is wary of what many strategists call a string of pearls strategy, an attempt by China to encircle India by building ports and infrastructure in India's neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.