India's Chief of Army Staff General N.C Vij's weeklong visit to China is of vital significance for bilateral military ties and overall Sino-Indian relations.
The successful visit, which ended yesterday, was by the highest ranking Indian army officer in a decade and was achieved after a gradual thaw in relations between the two neighbors in recent years.
This chilly period is being seen as merely a fleeting phase from a historic perspective.
Thanks to efforts made by both sides over the past several years, great strides have been made in improving relations and numerous obstacles have been overcome.
Rapport was helped when then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee paid a historic visit to China last year.
During his visit, China and India signed the Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation, laying a solid foundation for mutual cooperation on all fronts.
The warming relations were not, as some feared, derailed by the government change in India last year.
In fact high-level exchanges are now frequent and dialogue on borders issues is taking place.
Economically, trade and investment are booming, with total trade volume already exceeding US$1.2 billion this year.
Cooperation in other fields, such as culture, tourism and sports, is also expanding.
Military relations, in particular, are advancing rapidly.
A series of high-level exchanges have taken place over the last year, following Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes' visit to China.
Indian naval ships visited Shanghai last year and participated in the first-ever joint military exercises held with China.
China's Wu Quanshu, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, visited India last year and State Councilor and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Cao Gangchuan, who is also defense minister, went to India this year.
This high number of exchanges is expected to inject vitality into once stalled military relations.
The overall development of Sino-Indian ties has its own concrete foundation.
As neighbors sharing a similar history and who have each adopted an independent foreign policy, China and India, the world's two largest developing countries, have similar views or common stances on many major international issues, on which they can support each other.
At the moment, both China and India are facing a common task of advancing economic development.
Both countries are seeking the economic development model suitable for their own national conditions.
Thus a peaceful international environment and amiable surroundings are important for economic progress in both countries.
Economically complementary, China and India could benefit enormously by making good use of each other's advantages.
Yet caution is advised as current Sino-Indian relations are not completely free of problems.
Sino-Indian relations have experienced ups and downs in the past.
There are still some problems between the two countries, such as border issues.
Historical and outside factors mean a certain degree of distrust still exists between the neighbors, highlighting the pressing need to build trust and confidence between them.
But these obstacles are surmountable as long as both sides are sincere and determined to tackle them.
It is expected that the planned visit to India by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao next year will contribute to this end.
It is in the same sense that Vij's visit was of vital significance not only to military ties but also to the overall relationship between the two countries.
His visit will contribute more to strengthening trust and understanding between the two armies, thus giving fresh impetus to the growth of relations.
The significance of Vij's visit, as the Indian media claimed, is to put up a bridge of trust over the Himalaya Mountain between the two armies.
Vij's visit is also hoped to establish a bridge of trust between the two countries and two peoples on each side of this mountain.
(China Daily December 30, 2004)