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Relations Warming Between China and India, Says Indian Minister - 2003-01-27


India's foreign minister says there is little chance that his nation would go to war with China, despite the perception the two Asian giants have competing interests on the path to being global powers. The comments come at an international conference on Asian security in New Delhi.

Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said relations are warming between India and China, despite the fact the two nations have serious differences and border disputes remain a legacy of their war in 1962.

Addressing an Asian security conference in New Delhi, Mr. Sinha disputed scholarly predictions that another conflict is inevitable due to overlapping interests as China and India compete for a larger global role.

"India's approach to relations with China will remain forward-looking and infused with a sense of optimism. India's policy will not be based on fear of Chinese power or fear of Chinese economic achievement. They will be based on the conviction that a prosperous India is inevitable. So is a strong and prosperous China," Mr. Sinha said.

Relations between India and China, which are both nuclear powers, remained hostile and bitter for decades, but have improved in recent years. There have been top-level official exchanges: Chinese premier Zhu Rongji visited India last year, and Indian Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is scheduled to visit Beijing later this year.

Both countries are also working to resolve a longstanding boundary dispute and economic ties are growing. Bilateral trade has exploded since 1991 from about $250 million to 16 times that, or $4.3 billion, last year.

But Mr. Sinha acknowledges that thorny issues still trouble the relationship. Among them is the alleged Chinese assistance to Pakistan's nuclear and missile program.

Several Indian political analysts believe however that the nuclear issue is particularly fraught with danger. Brahma Chellaney is a foreign affairs analyst with the independent Center for Policy Research.

"The fact is India's long-term security policies are pivoted on China's rise as a major power, and India is very concerned both with China's growing might - political, economic and military - as well as its close strategic and technological relationship with Pakistan - which includes the covert supply of weapons of mass destruction assistance," Mr. Chellaney said.

Foreign Minister Sinha however maintains that India and China, the world's two most populous countries, are too large and strong to be intimidated by any nation, including each other.

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