Beijing, China: China on Thursday presented an upbeat picture of its ties with India and said that both countries should shed suspicion and manage differences by meeting half way, toning down its tough posture against New Delhi after the tense Doklam standoff.
As China's political picture is set for a major change this week with its Parliament expected to ratify the proposal to remove term limits for President Xi Jinping, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed over a two-hour-long press conference outlining Beijing's foreign policy perspectives in what is called a "new era".
Last year, Mr Wang skirted to take a question on ties with India amid growing discord over a host issues including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China blocking efforts at the UN to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist as well as India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Later in the two militaries were locked in the 73-day standoff at Doklam, the longest in recent years.
Mr Wang, who is widely expected to be promoted as State Councillor, a top diplomatic position, took a question on India today in the carefully choreographed media event telecast live on the sidelines of the annual session of legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).
Asked how China views relations with India this year after turbulence in ties in 2017 due to a number of issues including the Doklam standoff, Mr Wang sought to strike a chord with India, calling for both the countries to shed confrontationist stance on issues of differences.
"The Chinese dragon and Indian elephant must not fight each other but dance with each other," he said, adding "if China and India are united, one plus one is not equal to two but eleven".
"Despite some tests and difficulties, the China-India relationship continues to grow," Mr Wang said.
In an apparent reference to concerns in India over forays being made by Beijing in India's close neighbourhood, Mr Wang said, "China is upholding its rights and legitimate interests and taking care to preserve its relationship with India".
"Chinese and Indian leaders have developed a strategic vision for the future of our relations," he said.
"The international situation is experiencing its biggest change in a century....China and India must do everything to emphasise this and support each other and avoid mutual suspicion and attrition," he said.
"Mutual trust is the most precious commodity in China-India relations. With political trust, not even the Himalayas can stop us from friendly exchanges. Without it not even levelled land can bring us together," he said.
He also sought to convey a message to people of India in general to improve China's image.
"A shared understanding far outstrips our differences. Our common interests far outweigh our frictions. China is willing and ready to inherit and take foreword our traditional friendship and be a friend and partner of Indian people," he said.
"I hope the two sides will be free from mental inhibitions and meet each other halfway. Let us replace suspicion with trust, manage differences with dialogue and build a future with cooperation," he said.
Beijing is also pressing New Delhi not to allow the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama to engage in high-profile activities aimed at "splitting" Tibet from China.
Mr Wang, however, reacted strongly to a question whether the Indo-Pacific strategy being furthered by India, the US, Japan and Australia will affect China's multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
He said there was "no shortage of headline grabbing ideas" but they were "like the foam on the sea" that "gets attention but will soon dissipate".
Contrary to claims made by some academics and media outlets that the strategy is aimed at containing China, the four countries have made it clear that it targets no one, Mr Wang said.
"I hope they mean what they say," he said.
"Let us not forget the BRI has received the support of over 100 countries. Nowadays stroking a new Cold War is out of sync with the times and inciting confrontation will find no market," he said.
Touted as Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious project, the BRI focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe.
The BRI also includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which India opposed as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.