Salman Khurshid says India must accept China's growing influence
Agence France-Presse in New Delhi
India's foreign minister says New Delhi must accept China's growing presence in its own backyard as Beijing steps up its investments and diplomatic efforts in South Asia.
New Delhi has been wary of growing Chinese influence around the Indian Ocean, where Beijing has forged ties with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Myanmar, often through funding and the building of infrastructure.
The minister, Salman Khurshid, said: "We will have to accept the new reality of China's presence in many areas that we consider an exclusive playground for India and its friends.
"China for instance would give a right arm to be in the Indian Ocean as comfortably as India is placed in the Indian Ocean ... this is an important critical factor for what we will see as the emerging Asian century."
Khurshid, 59, was appointed foreign minister six weeks ago amid hopes he would bring a fresh approach to a decades-old diplomatic strategy that has favoured caution over ambition.
The minister said that India needed to develop its relationship with China into a meaningful partnership.
"China is aggressive. China is a partner for us. China is a neighbour for us ... the real creativity in India's foreign policy will come in being able to combine the strengths of China with the strengths of India," he said.
Relations between India and China are often prickly and marked by distrust, a legacy of a brief border war in 1962.
India's navy chief said last week that Beijing's growing maritime strength was a major cause for concern and New Delhi needed to adapt its strategy.
China has been locked in a series of territorial disputes in the South China Sea and has warned India about investing there.
India signed a pact with Vietnam last year to expand oil exploration in the sea.