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`The dragon and the elephant can get along'

By Our Diplomatic Correspondent

NEW DELHI, APRIL 11. "It is possible for a dragon and an elephant to be on good terms with each other. And that is the current case with China and India. Premier Wen Jiabao, on his first visit to India, reached a consensus with his host on keeping the issue of border disputes on the backburner," the China Daily said in a commentary today.

Pointing out that border disputes remain unsettled, the newspaper said that these would not become a drag on the progress of Sino-Indian relations. "While working out a mechanism for a peaceful settlement of the issue, the two countries realise there is much to be gained by co-operation, and by expanding commerce and trade relations," it said.

"Big does not necessarily mean rivalry. There are a lot of things that bring us together. Both of us prefer a world order that is more multipolar and takes greater account of our roles. The Chinese are no stranger to their neighbour's Bollywood movies and curries."

"We have always looked on our big neighbour on the other side of the Himalayas as our partner. We are happy to read the same message from them," the paper stated.

Building trust

According to the commentary, people of the two countries were getting to know each other better, which helps build trust. "The warm ties are going to bring concrete results. China and India are to open a free trade zone, an initiative China proposed to India when State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan visited the country last October."

"Efforts will be taken to reduce the areas of friction between the two countries, such as establishing a co-ordination mechanism to avoid hostile competition over energy. There is no doubt that trade is the engine driving Sino-Indian relations forward."

However, the paper felt that trade links left much to be desired. "Bilateral trade stood at $13.6 billion in 2004. That is only one per cent of China's global trade, and nine per cent of India's. This indicates the huge opening for hard work from the two countries." "Co-operation will help our individual economies. Bilateral investment flows are small, but growing ... China's new leadership has fine-tuned foreign policy for better getting along with our neighbours, considering them as our partners."

Pointing out that India and China's economic growth had fuelled outsiders' curiosity concerning a race between the two, China Daily said: "But the two are not rivals on any front, including the political and economic. Progress in the two countries will consolidate the building blocks for further co-operation."

"The ups and downs of bilateral relations over the past 55 years have offered a plethora of lessons for the two countries' leaders. They are building a more mature relationship based on rationality and pragmatism ... this positive momentum on the economic front gave wings to the advancement of bilateral ties.

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