There is a new spirit of bonhomie in the air on both sides of the Himalayas.
China and India are improving their relationship, taking it to a new level.
India's Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar starts his two-day China trip today. His talks with officials are expected to lead to agreements on cooperation in oil exploration, production, storage, conservation and research and development.
Aiyar is the second Indian minister to visit Beijing in a week. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran wrapped up his visit for the second round of India-China strategic dialogue on January 9-10.
The two countries have been qualitatively upgrading their relations to strategic levels. The relationship is becoming more mature, with the two countries looking upon each other as partners rather than rivals.
During Premier Wen Jiabao's India visit in April 2005, the two nations agreed to upgrade their relations and establish a "strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity." They agreed to come up with a plan to resolve border disputes and let trade flourish.
The presence of the two Indian officials in China is the first major bilateral event of a year that is being marked as the "Year of India-China Friendship."
The strategic dialogue will instil confidence and cooperation between the two nations. It is a realistic response to the reality of the bilateral relations.
Ties between the two booming nations have flourished in recent years, led primarily by trade. A two-way trade volume of US$18.5 billion by the end of last year draws the two countries closer. They are complementary with and supplementary to each other, but remain competitive on many other fronts.
There is a clear awareness of their linked destinies as neighbors and the two largest countries of Asia. More mutual understanding, trust and cooperation between them will contribute significantly to the prosperity and stability of the region and the world as a whole.
The strategic talks between India and China were the outcome of years of efforts by the two "to take bilateral engagements into a long-term and strategic relationship."
Sino-Indian relations have been warming up in the past few years with a flurry of official exchanges, covering issues from border disputes to enhanced trade and closer political ties.
The dialogue will broaden the scope of the bilateral relationship, allowing both sides to swap notes on global and regional security issues.
Such a forum will help them forge greater understanding of respective positions on a wide range of issues.
The move to upgrade the relationship indicates a willingness from both countries to explore ways to enhance mutual engagement on other pressing issues while continuing to address contentious aspects like the boundary dispute.
Officials from the two countries will, for the seventh time, bring the boundary issue to the negotiating table in New Delhi next month. The issue involves more than 125,000 square kilometers in disputed territory.
The discussions on the boundary issue have been put on the back burner.
This is the right approach to building an atmosphere conducive to dealing with this decades-old issue.
China and India cannot afford to let the contentious issue come in the way of taking forward bilateral relations.
The two rounds of strategic dialogue, with the first held in New Delhi on January 24-25, 2005, have framed the agenda for this interaction.
Guided by the bright prospect the economic partnership holds for the future, the dialogue lends a strategic dimension to the relationship.
(China Daily January 12, 2006)