India partner, not rival, says China on eve of NSG meet

September 2nd, 2008 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Beijing, Sep 2 (IANS) Amid reports of Beijing’s reservations about the nuclear deal, China Tuesday announced Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s forthcoming visit to India and underlined that the two countries are “partners, rather than rivals”. The three-day visit beginning Sunday was announced in New Delhi and Beijing by the foreign office of the two countries. This will be Yang’s first visit to India since becoming foreign minister in April last year.

“China and India are friendly neighbours, and both are large developing countries. The two sides have reached consensus that they were cooperative partners of mutual benefit, rather than rivals,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing.

Alluding to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful visit to China early this year, she said the visit that led to the signing of a strategic joint statement, “A Shared Vision for the 21st Century”, marked an important step in improving relations.

Beijing’s assurance about its commitment to develop strategic ties with India comes close on the heels of critical remarks in the People’s Daily - the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party - attacking the India-US nuclear deal as a major blow “to the international non-proliferation regime”.

India is, however, hopeful that China will not risk its growing relations with New Delhi by playing the spoiler in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) when it meets Thursday to consider a waiver to resume global nuclear commerce with India.

Announcing the visit in New Delhi, the Indian foreign office said the Chinese foreign minister will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on a wide range of bilateral and global issues.

Yang will formally inaugurate China’s consulate general in Kolkata - a move aimed at expanding trade between the two countries - before coming to Delhi.

The two ministers will discuss an entire gamut of issues, including the decades-old border dispute, trade ties and the prospects of civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

Yang is also likely to assure New Delhi that China is not in competition with India over Nepal.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda’s visit to China to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics fuelled speculation among some sections in India that Beijing was trying to use Kathmandu to deepen its strategic stakes there at the cost of New Delhi.

Yang will call on Manmohan Singh, and is likely to extend an invitation to the Indian prime minister to visit China for the Asia Europe (ASEM) conclave in October.

Yang will also go to Sri Lanka after wrapping up his three-day visit to India.

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