India's prime minister pledged yesterday to maintain an independent foreign policy that seeks strong ties with China and other Asian neighbors, apparently trying to assuage Chinese concerns about New Delhi's warming ties with Washington.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an address to the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said China and India should cooperate to further spur global economic growth, while standing with Beijing in rejecting demands that developing nations shoulder an equal responsibility in combating climate change.
"Our policy seeks to ... give us strategic autonomy in the world. Independence of our foreign policy enables us to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation with all major countries of the world," Singh said.
Singh's visit to China highlights growing interaction between the Asian powerhouses, whose combined populations of nearly 2.4 billion account for about one-third of humanity.
On Monday, the countries agreed to ramp up trade and military links, part of a drive by their leaders that sought to portray them as complementary neighbors rather than rivals.
Singh was scheduled to meet later yesterday with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and the Communist Party's No. 2 ranking official, Wu Bangguo (吳邦國).
Bilateral ties have improved markedly on the back of soaring commerce and increased contacts. Two-way trade grew to US$37 billion last year, and on Monday, Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (
Singh and Wen also reiterated a commitment to maintaining calm along their disputed border, while negotiators try to resolve the long-standing disagreement.
They said joint military drills would be held in India this year, following the first such exercises in China last year.
Even amid the buoyant mood in ties, residual mistrust remains over the border dispute that sparked a brief but bloody 1962 war. New Delhi has expressed concern about China's cultivation of relations with Myanmar, Pakistan and other Indian neighbors, while Beijing is believed to be watching developments in New Delhi's increasingly close relationship with Washington.
Stronger US-India ties have been emphasized by a bilateral agreement that allows the US, for the first time in three decades, to ship nuclear fuel and technology to India. New Delhi will in exchange open its civilian nuclear reactors to international inspectors.
Against that background, Singh's comments appeared aimed at reassuring China that India was not contemplating a fundamental change in its traditional foreign policy of nonalignment.
"The primary focus of our foreign policy is to create an external environment that is conducive to our rapid development," Singh said.
"We must therefore ensure that India and China cooperate in creating a world of positive externalities and mutual prosperity rather than one based on calculations of balance of power and animosity," he said.
With China's economy steaming ahead at about 11 percent a year and India's at about 9 percent, both nations are exerting a growing influence on the global economy.
That growth has prompted demands that China and India do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a task that Singh maintained was the primary responsibility of the developed world -- virtually echoing China's viewpoint.