BEIJING, Dec. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Premier Wen Jiabao is visiting India between Dec 15-17. Wen's visit, primarily aimed at closing the China Festival celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and India, will have a far-reaching impact on the future course of the bilateral relationship.
Sixty years ago, the two newly independent nations decided to recognize each other, opening a new path of engagement. They jointly sponsored the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, providing an alternative way for conducting international relations. Sino-Indian cooperation also inspired other Asian and African states.
Their attempts at solidarity, however, faltered over a boundary dispute, leading to frosty relations for more than a decade. It was only in the late 1970s that the bilateral ties started a slow and gradual process of normalization.
The summit meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Rajiv Gandhi in December 1988 marked the beginning of steady improvement in relations between the two countries, ushering in a new era of pragmatic engagement.
Thanks to the efforts of both sides, the relationship has since continued to blossom. The border between China and India has remained peaceful with not a single shot fired for two decades. The boundary issue, though unresolved, has not prevented the relationship from expanding and deepening. Economic and trade ties have grown exponentially from around $2 billion to $60 billion in the past 10 years. People-to-people exchanges and military-to-military relations have been strengthened. Sharing common ground on a wide-range of issues of global significance, China and India have conducted close cooperation and coordination to address global issues like climate change, the global financial crisis and food security.
However, the trajectory of Sino-Indian interaction has generated growing interest and divergent views over the future course of the relationship. For optimists, the two fast-developing economies are poised to take over the world in the next two decades. Pessimists, however, argue that the two nations are bound to be rivals. Neither view captures the true nature of the complicated relationship, as both the optimists and pessimists have missed the full picture. The fact is that, for the first time in a century, the course of history will be defined by the interaction between the world's two most populated countries.
While the West would like to play one against the other, China and India have been advocating a multipolar world, envisioning a new international system that is open, balanced and inclusive. Competition between the two should make way for joint efforts to tackle the challenges for the developing world in seeking common development. Instead of keeping score against each other, India and China should tap their potential and strive for mutual benefits and more contributions to global progress and prosperity. In today's globalized world, China and India's relationships with a third party will never be completely independent of each other. The challenge for policymakers and the public in both countries is to ensure and shape the debate for steady and healthy development.
The two sides have been proactive in developing their relationship by establishing a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity, formulating a 10-pronged strategy, and signing a shared vision for the 21st century.
With this paradigm, China and India should be able to transcend the prism of geopolitics, turning vision into reality.
Indeed, when China and India join hands, the world of the 21st century will be different.
The author is vice-president and senior research fellow, China Institute of International Studies.