Indian Foreign Minister optimistic about China ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) shakes hands with Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid during a meeting in New Delhi on Nov 10, 2013. Mr Khurshid is optimistic about future relations with fellow Asian power China, with Delhi v
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) shakes hands with Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid during a meeting in New Delhi on Nov 10, 2013. Mr Khurshid is optimistic about future relations with fellow Asian power China, with Delhi viewing Beijing as "rivals who are also partners" -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid is optimistic about future relations with fellow Asian power China, with Delhi viewing Beijing as "rivals who are also partners".

But in an interview with The Australian newspaper published on Monday, Khurshid said a festering Himalayan border dispute between the two giant neighbours remained a key area of concern.

India and China, the world's two most populous countries, have had a sometimes-fraught historical relationship given their contrasting political systems and specific geo-strategic interests, but Khurshid said he was confident of moving forward.

Asked if they were not destined to be rivals, he replied: "Yes, I think that's to some extent inevitable, although it's much more complex than that, of course.

"But we'd like to be rivals who are also partners, partners who are also rivals.

"Our prime minister has said that the world is large enough to accommodate the aspirations of both China and India," he added.

The border dispute flared again in April, with India accusing Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-held territory, sparking a three-week stand-off that was only resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.

China and India fought a brief war in 1962 and the border between the two nations has never been properly demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace.

Asked why China made incursions into Indian territory, Khurshid said "there are a lot of theories".

"To what extent is this autonomous People's Liberation Army-instigated action? Or is it China's own subtle way of sending out messages of dominance? "I can say the bottom line is that when we meet them (China's leaders) they are very friendly and reasonably responsive to our concerns.

"I won't say that we've had complete satisfaction, but there is steady movement forward." While India remains concerned, the foreign minister said the incursions should be seen "in the context of a different perception of what the line of control is and where it should be".

"The good news is that there hasn't been a casualty on the Chinese front for several years," he said. "There have been skirmishes and eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations, but no casualties."