When Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, on behalf of their respective governments, sat together for a "strategic dialogue," the two countries were pushing their bilateral relations onto a new stage.
The world's two most populous nations have for a long time shown a willingness to shoulder more responsibility and play larger roles in the regional and international stages as their regional and international influence continuously surges.
The two-day strategic talks, held on January 24 in New Delhi, is aimed at broadening the scope of Sino-Indian relationship while providing both countries with a platform to exchange notes on regional and global issues of common concern.
Among the topics discussed were the issues of globalization, energy security, democratization of international relations, reform of the United Nations (UN), non-proliferation, anti-terrorism and the situation in Iraq and on the Korean Peninsula.
The two sides also briefed each other on their respective foreign and security policies and reached common ground on a wide range of issues.
The launching of the first ever "strategic dialogue" mechanism fully demonstrates that the two neighbors have already raised relations above a lingering and plaguing border dispute that once plunged their relationship into an icy period.
At this meeting of historical significance, both sides did not camouflage their strong desire to look beyond bilateral disputes and develop and upgrade ties in a global perspective.
Both countries stressed the importance of reforming international institutions, including the UN and its Security Council.
Both sides regarded the possibility of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and sensitive technologies falling in the hands of terrorists as "a grave threat." And both recognized the importance of international cooperation instead of unilateral actions to combat penetrative global dangers.
Also, both sides basically reached an agreement on the next round of talks to be held in China on mutually agreed dates and necessary preparations for a visit to India by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao set for March, which is expected to mark a new phase in bilateral ties.
At the talks, the Chinese also expressed its understanding of the Indian wishes to pursue a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and supports India in playing a bigger role in the international arena.
The strategic dialogue is a key step forward in developing and deepening bilateral ties under the two neighbors' unambiguous strategy for a larger engagement with each other.
Beijing and New Delhi's repetition of their unequivocal stance that they advocate democratization of international relations and multipolarity is undoubtedly conducive to promoting a more democratic and peaceful international society, which can more efficiently handle the challenge brought by globalization.
The flourishing bilateral relations in recent years have undoubtedly laid down a consolidated foundation for such a strategic dialogue mechanism between the two countries.
Since the 1962 border clash, which saw bilateral relations enter the abyss, Beijing and New Delhi had for many years made sluggish progress in the process of contacts and misgivings.
However, since the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to China in June 2003, during which the two countries vowed to promote a long-term constructive and cooperative partnership, compromised bilateral ties have been back on the way of rapid restoration and improvement.
The two countries have since then been engaged in discussions to resolve the lingering thorny boundary dispute, with special representatives holding several rounds of talks.
In economic fields, trade and investment are also booming, with total trade volume exceeding US$12 billion by November last year, according to the China General Administration of Customs. Cooperation in other fields, such as culture, tourism and sports, is also expanding.
Bilateral military relations, in particular, have been rapidly boosted in recent years.
Following the then Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes' visit to China in 2003, the two countries have conducted frequent military training exchanges and contacts.
Late that year, Indian naval ships paid a visit to Shanghai and held with the Chinese forces the first ever joint military exercises off the city.
That year, Wu Quanshu, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army of China, visited India.
Last year, Chinese Defense Minister and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Cao Gangchuan went to India.
And late last year, Indian Chief of Army Staff General NC Vij paid a weeklong visit to China.
The visit to China by the highest-ranking Indian army official in a decade has added much mutual trust to bilateral military ties and injected new vitality into the overall Sino-Indian relations.
China and India have good reasons to discard past enmity and join hand-in-hand for the sake of themselves and others.
The world's two largest developing countries share a similar history and are both eager to rejuvenate themselves under a peaceful international and internal environment to become a more important actor in the international community.
Both countries have adopted an independent foreign policy and share common or similar views and stances on numerous major international issues.
Both are exploring and pursuing a development model suitable for their own national conditions.
More importantly, the two neighbors are economically complementary and can benefit much from making good use of each other's advantages.
Fully aware of a wide space for cooperation, the two countries have on many occasions reiterated their wishes to improve their ties at all levels and in all areas while addressing their outstanding differences, including the boundary dispute, in a negotiable, fair, reasonable and mutually satisfactory manner.
"We hope that, with India's cooperation, we will be able to solve the border issue so that bilateral ties will witness faster development on a new basis," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said following the first round of strategic dialogue.
The stance was echoed by the Indian side.
"We are doing so in a purposive and mutually acceptable manner and we look at our relations in a larger regional and global backdrop," said Indian External Affairs Minister Netwar Singh on January 27 at the Seventh Asian Security Conference.
With their global clout increasing, the two countries have been conscious that consolidated mutual trust and cooperation between them serve as crucial elements that can make the region and the whole of Asia vibrant and energetic for growth.
And there is also an expanded consensus in the minds of decision-makers in Beijing and New Delhi that the two countries have enough space and opportunity in the region and beyond to develop and boost ties.
The establishment of the "strategic dialogue" mechanism shows the two neighbors have overcome the old mindset that two key regional players would inevitably compete and struggle for "scope of influence" and "geopolitical interests."
There are reasons to expect that the two Asian heavyweights will further advance the strong momentum of stable and sound good-neighborly ties under a larger scope following the first strategic talks.
(China Daily February 18, 2005)