China will build trust with India and ties between the two countries remain key to world peace, Li Keqiang, the Chinese prime minister, has said.
Li, who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday, said China wanted to increase cooperation with India and that his choice of destination for his first foreign visit showed the importance that Beijing attached to ties with Delhi.
“The purpose of my current visit to India is three-fold: to increase mutual trust, to intensify cooperation and to face the future,” Li said, speaking alongside Manmohan Singh, his Indian counterpart.
“On the basis of deeper mutual trust, our two countries can further deepen our mutual understanding and construct a new type of relations between major countries, promote healthy and sound development of China and India. That will be a true blessing for Asia and the world.”
Li’s visit comes after a flare-up last month in a long-running border dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in a remote Himalayan region.
India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20km into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.
The Line of Actual Control between the two countries has never been formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace in the region that was the site of a brief Indo-Chinese war in 1962.
Li did not mention the border dispute but stressed that cooperation between the world’s two most populous nations had global ramifications.
“World peace … cannot be a reality without strategic trust between India and China,” he said.
Andrew Leung, a China analyst, told Al Jazeera that despite the dispute India and China have a lot to gain from their relationship.
“China and India are leading the developing world and this is getting more and more evidence as China’s economy will become the biggest in the world very soon and India to follow suit not much later,” Leung said.
Li is also scheduled to meet Salman Khurshid, India’s foreign minister, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and senior figures from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before heading on Tuesday to the financial hub, Mumbai.
The border dispute almost led Khurshid to cancel a visit to Beijing before the pullback agreement, despite his insistence that the row should not serve to “destroy” recent diplomatic progress.
Sujit Dutta, a China expert at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, said Beijing could become more assertive in such disputes under its new leadership.
“As Beijing’s new leadership is making a concerted effort to challenge India’s territorial assertions, India will have to plan new attempts to bridge the perceptional distances between these two huge neighbours,” Dutta told AFP.
Other observers said there was a general acceptance that the border dispute should not be allowed to block progress in other areas.
China is India’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling $66.5bn last year.