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Commentary: Make bread and cars, not tanks and missiles
( 2003-07-11 08:51) (China Daily)

China and India, two Asian economic giants, will definitely see a win-win scenario when they pool their resources to push forward the current good momentum in the area of bilateral relations.

Visiting Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee delivers a speech at a seminar entitled "India & China, Challenges & Opportunities in the IT Sector" in Shanghai June 26, 2003. India's relationship with China has been transformed by a determination to cooperate and deal with problems, Vajpayee said. [Reuters]

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's successful visit to China last month, the first such visit in a decade, showed that bilateral relations, after years of twists and turns, are finally on the right track.

China and India, two of the world's most populous countries, have every reason to become close allies.

Both are developing countries with the urgent priority to improve people's living conditions. Both are witnessing rapid economic growth and are exerting increasing influence in the international arena.

With a combined population of one-third of the world's total, the two countries can not only build a favourable outer environment through co-operation for their own development, but can also contribute a great deal in promoting Asian and world peace and safeguarding international justice.

In the 1950s, the two newly born governments in each nation once gave each other invaluable support in their consolidation of independence and strides towards development. Their glorious feats set an example for millions of oppressed people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, encouraging them to gain their own independence and self-determination.

In 1954, China and India co-sponsored the famous "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence'' -- mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence -- which later became widely accepted norms for handling international relations.

Unfortunately, Sino-Indian ties suffered significant setbacks in the early 1960s and reached a major impasse after a border war in 1962. Since then, distrust and vigilance have dominated bilateral meetings until recent years.

Now, the Cold War is a distant memory. Peace and development are the prevailing themes nowadays. It is time to shed Cold War notions.

Continued suspicion can only lead to a colossal waste of time and resources, and drag down each country's ambitious modernization programmes. Limited capital and resources should be used to make bread, cars and houses, instead of producing tanks, fighter jets or missiles.

Historical disagreements should not hinder exchanges and co-operation.

The urgent task lying before China and India is to grasp every opportunity to develop economies and build comprehensive national strength, so as to revitalize the two ancient civilizations.

In the economic sector, China and India can learn a great deal from each other and benefit tremendously from bilateral ties.

The two are facing similar problems such as widespread poverty, capital shortages, overpopulation, education concerns, and scarce resources for the population among other woes.

China fares well in manufacturing, while India excels in software engineering, management and financial services. India is rich in high-quality steel ores which China lacks, while China produces plenty of coal to meet India's steel industry needs. There are a number of areas where the two economies are complementary.

"China and India should not be closed to each other. Vajpayee once told me personally that the two countries 'have every reason to build up better relations,' for there is plenty of room to expand co-operation between the two countries,'' Ma Jiali, research fellow with the China Institute of contemporary International Relations, told China Daily.

Bilateral co-operation in trade, investment, tourism, judicial collaboration, human rights and anti-terrorism, are all expected to expand and deepen.

Vajpayee's visit has greatly improved the political atmosphere between the two countries and dispersed worries and hesitations in the business community.

However, not everyone wishes to see China and India become friends.

Some Western media often intentionally highlight or exaggerate the disputes and problems between China and India on the basis of the notion that the rise of one country would naturally become a threat to the other.

It is true that China and India compete in many areas. Both seek to attract international capital and grab a larger share of the manufacturing market. But it is this healthy competition that inspires creativity and motivates advancement. Confrontation on these matters would lead both countries nowhere.

As the Chinese proverb goes, when the snipe and the clam grapple, it is the fisherman who wait to benefit.

Fortunately, the majority of Chinese and Indian people are wise enough to see the importance of Sino-Indian friendship.

Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once told visiting Indian Prime Minister Lagiv Ghandi in 1988 "the 21st century can only be an Asian century if India and China combine to make it so.''

Vajpayee also said as much in his speech in Beijing: "To do so effectively, we should be conscious of our complementary strengths, resist contradictory pulls, and deploy our resources in a mutually beneficial manner.''

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