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China Backs Peace in South Asia, Seeks to Enhance Trust With India

  • Anjana Pasricha

Chinese President Hu Jintao, on a visit to India, has welcomed recent efforts by India and Pakistan to mend their relations, and says he wants to enhance trust with India.

Chinese President Hu Jintao says Beijing wants to play a constructive role in promoting stability in the South Asian region.

Mr. Hu was addressing diplomats and senior Indian politicians in New Delhi on Wednesday, a day after he and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed to expand economic and political ties between the world's two most populous countries.

The Chinese leader says peace in South Asia will be beneficial for the region, and he welcomed the recent improvement in relations between India and Pakistan - the longtime rivals that embarked on a peace process three years ago. Mr. Hu spoke through an interpreter.

"China welcomes political stability and economic prosperity in South Asia and harmonious coexistence and common development of countries in the region. It also welcomes and supports improved relations between India and Pakistan," he said. "China does not seek any selfish gains in South Asia, and stands ready to play a constructive role in promoting peace and development in the subcontinent."

Analysts say the Chinese leader is trying to calm Indian suspicions about Beijing's close economic and military links with Pakistan, a source of friction between India and China for many years.

They say Mr. Hu also wants to allay apprehensions in New Delhi that China is a competitor for power and influence in the region.

In recent years, Beijing has built close military ties with two more of India's neighbors, Burma and Bangladesh, triggering some concern here.

But the Chinese leader says he has come to New Delhi to "enhance mutual trust", and wants to chart a new course for future relations between the two countries.

During the current visit, the two leaders have tried to bridge political mistrust, and to stress that there is enough space for both Asian giants to develop.

A joint declaration issued Tuesday stated that they are "not rivals or competitors, but are partners for mutual benefit." There has been little emphasis during the visit on the border dispute that still divides the two.

Mr. Hu said that the growing economic and strategic ties augur well for the two countries, whose combined population of nearly 2.5 billion accounts for one-third of humanity.

He will attend an India-China economic summit on Thursday, before traveling on to Islamabad.

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