India's ambassador to China is hopeful of better relations between the world's two largest developing nations. Speaking at a lunch sponsored by the Asia Society in Hong Kong yesterday, Ambassador Shiv Shankar Menon said: 'The prospect for India-China relations must be described as optimistic.' He believed that with the focus on economic development, the two neighbours, who were once rivals, could increase co-operation and dialogue on areas of disagreement. In 1962, New Delhi and Beijing were locked in a border war over the Himalayan region. Beijing is also the No 1 political and economic supporter of Pakistan, India's rival. 'We have put in place a framework for bilateral dialogue on most major issues and are making progress on the questions that divide India and China,' Mr Menon said. He noted that Premier Zhu Rongji's January visit to India had boosted relations, enabling the countries to establish mechanisms to increase trade. He said the two nations could also learn from each other's economic development system. China's 2000 GDP was valued at US$4.5 trillion (HK$35 trillion) and had a real growth rate of eight per cent while India had a 2000 GDP of $2.2 trillion and a real growth rate of six per cent. To further push for better ties, Mr Menon hoped for more people-to-people contact such as student exchanges and tourism. When asked if the two nations were destined to be strategic and political rivals, Mr Menon replied: 'Certain competition is healthy. However, Indo-Sino relations is not a zero sum game. Both sides have large societies and transforming economies which together have net positive advantages.' Mr Menon also saw no contradiction in India's closer ties with the US and its relationship with Beijing. But Beijing has become increasingly suspicious, particularly of Washington and New Delhi's closer military ties.