BEIJING: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee admitted yesterday New Delhi and Beijing had been in a “state of estrangement”, but he stressed the two sides had “emerged decisively from this dead-end” years ago.
In an address at Peking University, he said the two sides had been in a “state of estrangement” but “we have emerged decisively from this dead-end of mistrust already a few decades ago”.
“We have vigorously set about recovering our mutual understanding, building a broad base for our co-operation and redeeming the promise of our complementarities.”
China and India fought a bloody border war in 1962 and relations plunged further when Beijing opposed the 1975 incorporation of the former protectorate of Sikkim into India.
Bilateral ties showed signs of healing in 1993 when then Indian premier P.V. Narasimha Rao visited Beijing and the frost thawed further three years later when then Chinese president Jiang Zemin visited New Delhi.
But Indian nuclear tests in 1998 angered Beijing and a trip to China in 2000 by then Indian president K.R. Narayanan failed to ease suspicions that the weapons were to counter threats from Beijing.
Vajpayee, who abruptly cut short a visit to Beijing as foreign minister in 1979 when China invaded Vietnam, was however adamant that ties had since turned a corner.
“We know where we have come from. Let us better understand each other as we are today and comprehend where we can go together in the future,” he said.
“The better we understand each other, the more we can do together.
“No objective analysis can deny the combined strength and complementarity of an India-China partnership,” he said.
The Indian leader, the first to visit China in a decade, also addressed the idea of a rivalry between the nuclear neighbours.
“As two large developing countries at roughly the same stage of development, sharing the same neighbourhood, pursuing similar growth trajectories, with comparable economic priorities and similar political ambitions, it is inevitable that comparisons will be made between India and China,” he said.
“It is also an unavoidable characteristic of human nature that there is always a sense of competition between two close and equal neighbours.
“But we need to clearly understand the difference between healthy competition and divisive rivalry.
“We should focus on the simple truth that there is no objective reason for discord between us, and neither of us is a threat to the other.” – AFP
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