Ambassador Zhang Yan's Speech at Exhibition on Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's 1988 Visit to China

H. E. Dr. Karan Singh, President of ICCR,

H. E. Mr. Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

Exact the same day (Dec.19) of 1988, H. E. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, made the historical visit to China. Today we gather here to commemorate this memorable event in order to pay our high tribute to him for his great contributions to the development of China-India relations. First of all, please allow me to express my warm welcome to the members of Gandhi family, distinguished guests and members of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi's entourage who had the privilege to witness the historic moment.

The visit made by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi to China was indeed a path-breaking event, during which he had extensive exchange of views with Chinese leaders on bilateral and international issues of mutual interest. Both sides stressed the need to restore the friendly relationship between two countries on the basis of the Panchsheel and to broaden bilateral ties in various areas. The visit opened a new chapter in the relations between our two great nations. Thereafter, China-India relations have entered into a new stage of development. Today we are happy to see that our two countries enjoy an ever increasing and all-round relationship.

Politically, two countries have maintained frequent high-level visits. In 2003 Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited China. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao visited India in 2005 and 2006 respectively. These visits have raised our bilateral relations to the level of establishing a Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. In October 2007, Chairperson of the Congress party Mrs. Sonia Gandhi visited China. The visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China in January 2008 culminated in signing of A Shared Vision for the 21st Century of China and India, setting a new milestone for the development of our bilateral relations. Frequent exchanges of visits between Government officials, parliamentarians and political parties have become a regular feature of our relationship, which contributed positively to the promotion of mutual understanding and building of mutual trust.

Economically, two countries have enjoyed a rapid growth of economic and trade cooperation. The two-way trade amounted to US$38.7 billion in 2007. In the first ten months of 2008, it has already reached US$45.5 billion, making China the number one trading partner of India. Encouraged by the strong momentum for growth, the two sides upgraded the target for trade volume from US$40 billion to US$60 billion by 2010. Mutual investments are also expanding. More than 150 Indian enterprises and over 60 Chinese companies have established business in respective countries. The vibrant economic cooperation has yielded win-win results to both countries on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and common develop.

Exchanges and cooperation in cultural, science and technology and tourist fields is also expanding rapidly. People to people exchanges are on stable increase. Last year the overall exchange of personnel exceeded 532 thousand. The annual exchange of visits by 100-member youth delegations from both countries are going on smoothly. Last month, Chinese acrobatic troupe successfully staged performance in India. This year, both countries have respectively opened new Consulates General in Guangzhou, China and Kalkota, India. Besides, contacts and cooperation are expanding in science and technology, agriculture, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, electronic and other fields.

The interaction between the armies of the two countries emerges as a new highlight. Last month, Navy Commander of the People's Liberation Army visited India, and the Chief of the Indian Air Force visited China. The second defense and security consultation and second anti-terrorism training have just successfully concluded in India. All these gave a strong boost to the mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries and armies.

In the international and regional affairs, China and India have found growing convergence on many important issues. Both sides have maintained close consultation and coordination on issues of mutual concern, such as climate change, counter-terrorism, energy and food security, and the reform of international financial institution. The two countries cooperate and coordinate closely in the UN, WTO, G8+5 and G20 as well as in regional framework such as China-India-Russia Trilateral Dialogue, Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the BRICs and other international and regional forum. In the G-20 Financial Summit convened in November this year, China and India work closely and helped deliver a positive result.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I have just outlined is very encouraging and positive trend of development of our bilateral relations which makes me feel confident of the future of our relationship. Furthermore, I am very much touched by the profound sentiment of friendship and fraternity from Indian people towards Chinese people since my arrival in India. After the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, the outpouring of sympathies and generous relief assistance from the Indian Government and people gave another vivid expression of warm feelings to the Chinese people and Government. In April, thanks to the meticulous arrangement of the India side, the Olympic Torch was successfully relayed in New Delhi. With strong support of India and other friendly nations, Beijing staged a high-standard Olympic Games with distinctive features. The Chairperson of Congress Party, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi personally attended the opening ceremony of the Games. All these have demonstrated the deep friendship of the Indian people towards the Chinese people. I would like to take the opportunity to say once again a big "thank you" to all of you! On the part of the Chinese people, we also bear deep affections towards the Indian people. We have shared the pain of the Indian people caused by the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Immediately after the attacks, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi sent letters of condolence to the Indian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and expressed strong condemnation against terrorist acts. Such kind of friendly interactions form a solid bedrock to the further advancement of our relationship.

Of course we are fully aware of challenges confronting us in our efforts to further advance our relationship. There are still issues left by history yet to be resolved, such as the border issue. However, so long as the two sides respect and accommodate each other's interests and concerns, and hold consultations on an equal footing in a spirit of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation in line with the agreed principles reached by our leaders, I am confident that a mutually-acceptable settlement of the outstanding issues will be reached finally.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In his speech at Qinghua University, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi said " I see optimism in both India and China today; optimism about the progress our countries can make, optimism about realizing our goals of development, optimism about the levels of cooperation we can reach". These incisive words showed his foresightedness. I do share his optimism. Today, our relationship stands at a new starting point. As Chinese President Hu Jintao noted, "long-term friendship, cooperation with mutual benefits and common development between China and India will change Asia and the world in a profound way". Indeed, China and India, as two rising economic giants, their relations nowadays has gone well beyond the bilateral context and acquired global and strategic dimension in importance. China and India are partners in development instead of competitors of zero-sum game. Both will benefit from harmonious co-existence, but will suffer from confrontation. A healthy and ever-growing relationship between China and India not only benefit the peoples of our two countries, but also will contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of Asia and the whole world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as a famous Chinese saying goes, when one drinks water, he or she should not forget those who dig the well. To commemorate Mr. Rajiv Gandhi's historic visit to China, the best way is to recommit ourselves to follow the path chartered by our leaders and redouble our efforts to work for the betterment of our relationship, and for the well-being of our two countries and two peoples. I believe you all agree with me on this point. Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai!

Finally I would like to propose a toast,

To the health of distingushed guests,

To the friendship between Chinese people and Indian people,

To the prosperity of China and India!


(December 19, 2008)

Suggest to a Friend