Beijing: India and China have been friends for 99.9 percent of the time in over 2,000 years of exchanges between them, Beijing's chief negotiator in boundary talks Dai Bingguo says, underlining that the two sides should "cast off" the shadow of the 1962 war and build a bright future together.
"In over 2,000 years of exchanges between China and India, we have been friends for 99.9 percent of the time, while unpleasant experience took up only 0.1 percent," 71-year-old Dai, who has had the longest engagement with India during the 15 rounds of border talks, said in an interview to PTI, his first ever to the Indian media.
As China's point man for India, Dai, who is set to retire in March next year, negotiated with four top Indian officials — Brajesh Mishra, J N Dixit, M K Narayanan and present National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon — on the border issue and normalisation of relations.
"More and more people of vision in India believe that our two countries should cast off the shadow of history in a forward-looking spirit, and the past should guide rather than hinder our endeavour to build a bright future together. I fully agree with this view," he said.
In the wide-ranging interview, which follows the last round of talks he had with Menon here on 3 December to finalise a common understanding of the progress made in the border talks since 2005, Dai gave carefully weighed written answers, covering progress made in the boundary negotiations, China's all-weather ties with Pakistan and his assessment of India's foreign policy.
Outlining his thoughts for future Chinese negotiators on India, Dai said India cannot be "wooed or ordered" around by anyone as it pursued an independent foreign policy.
"In my view, India is a country of strategic independence. It will not be wooed or ordered about by anyone else. Being a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement and a large emerging country with growing international influence, India will stick to its traditional independent foreign policy and contribute to the peace and development of the region and beyond," he said, answering a question on China's apprehensions about US courting India to be a close ally.
"China welcomes the efforts of India and the US to grow normal relations on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and hopes that their cooperation will promote peace and stability of the region," he said, hoping that the "shift of US Asia-Pacific strategy will be in keeping with the trend of the times and meet common aspiration of the region for more stability, closer cooperation and common development."
Hailing from minority Tujia community, Dai was groomed into Chinese diplomacy from the days of Mao and accomplished the tough task of normalising China-Russia ties, repairing the deep ideological divide before taking up the task of rebuilding Sino-India ties.
As a top diplomat during the decade-long stint of outgoing President Hu Jintao, Dai argues that there is no "hidden agenda" in Beijing's much touted "all-weather" ties with Islamabad.
"Pakistan is a neighbour and traditional friend of China. China and Pakistan have developed relations in an open and aboveboard manner. There is no hidden agenda, and the relationship is not targeted at any third party," he said.
On the India-China border issue for which he has been China's Special Representative for all the 15 rounds held so far, Dai said since the start of the boundary talks in 1979, China and India have worked "relentlessly to push forward the negotiations and achieved some positive results."
"The boundary question, an issue left over from history, is highly complicated. An early settlement will serve the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples. I believe that in seeking the settlement, we should always bear in mind the overall interest of the bilateral relations, act in the spirit of peace, friendship, equal-footed consultation, mutual respect and mutual accommodation, and work to narrow differences and expand common ground," Dai said.
Outlining the progress, he said in "we took an innovative step and set up the Special Representatives' meeting mechanism" in 2003. In 2005, we signed the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the China-India Boundary Question, and moved on to explore the framework for a boundary settlement, which is the second stage in a three-stage process."
"As the person in charge of China's foreign affairs and as China's Special Representative on the boundary question, it is my honour to have witnessed the growth of the bilateral relations and done my bit to promote it," said Dai.