Beijing no threat, says Indian foreign minister

A senior Indian minister has expressed confidence India and China can address common concerns and find answers to residual problems through dialogue.

In a wide-ranging interview with the South China Morning Post yesterday, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh denied New Delhi considered China a threat.

The minister, stopping over in Hong Kong on his way to Japan, pointed out that there was no foundation to the theory India, China and Russia might form a 'new grouping'.

This was despite the fact that on issues such as opposition to Nato expansion the three countries shared similar viewpoints.

On relations with China: India and China are two ancient civilisations. Our relations spanning millennia have enriched our two cultures. In recent times, our bilateral relations have developed and diversified.

During my visit to China in June this year, I had a useful exchange of views with Premier Zhu Rongji and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. We reached some important conclusions on furthering the confidence-building measures process, initiating a security dialogue, further enhancing our cultural, economic and functional co-operation and jointly celebrating the 50th anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic relations.

We have some difficulties and concerns. We seek a relationship in which both sides would be responsive to each other's concerns. We would like such concerns to be addressed in a meaningful manner.

We remain committed to a process of dialogue to resolve all outstanding differences. We seek a friendly, co-operative, good-neighbourly and mutually beneficial relation with China on the basis of Panchsheel [principles which cover mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs].

On allegations of an arms build-up in India: We are not engaged in any arms build-up. Our objective is national security. We have neither offensive policy nor posture. We remain committed to universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament process.

On the possibility of a 'special relationship' between India, Russia and China: Russia, China and India are three major Asian countries. India and Russia have a friendly relationship. Russia has a close relationship with China. Our relations with China are developing.

On international and global issues, certainly we have our own roles and interests. Our viewpoints and approaches have converged on some issues in recent times. However, this does not amount to re-inventing the Cold War in any fashion or creating of any blocs.

That would not be a step forward, it would be like taking a step backward. We do have consultations on issues of importance, also on issues of principles.

On the significance of China's imminent accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO): We have welcomed China's entry into WTO. We had always held the view that a large country like China cannot and should not be left out of multilateral arrangements.

On contributions India and China can make to regional security: India and China are the two largest countries in Asia. Our relations have a bearing on the peace and security in Asia and the world. Co-operative, constructive and friendly relations between us will be conducive to promotion of peace and security in the region.