With the India versus China comparison gaining currency, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday said New Delhi does not view Beijing as a rival but as a partner for making the 'Asian Century' a reality.
"This century promises to be the Asian century. China and India are leading the drive to make this century the Asian century," he said inaugurating the first full-fledged branch of Bank of India in Shenzhen.
Referring to China's stupendous economic growth that has even touched 13 per cent in the peak years after reforms of 1978, Chidambaram said he was confident India too would be able to match it over the next 10 to 20 years.
"Many other countries, envious of China or India, may regard this as China vs India. We do not do so. We regard it as China and India, working together to make this century an Asian century," he said.
He emphasised that relations between India and China in trade, commerce, business, diplomacy and in people-to-people exchanges should strengthen in the years to come.
Chidamabaram noted that bilateral trade in 2006 grew to a record $25 billion and there exists greater scope for the businesses of the two countries to cooperate more with the setting up of more financial institutions like banks in both countries.
He was confident that the Bank of India branch in Shenzhen, one of China's fastest growing cities, will be able to tap into the booming bilateral trade.
Chidambaram noted that Chinese businesses were already routing $300 million worth of business through BOI in countries like Singapore and expressed confidence that with the establishment of a full-fledged bank in Shenzhen, Chinese businesses would opt to deal with Indian banks for their requirements in India.
Indian Ambassador to China, Nirupama Rao noted that BOI is the only Indian bank to have two offices in China -- Shenzhen and in Beijing, where it has a representative office.
Pointing out that India will soon open a second Consulate General in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong province, she hoped that cities like Shenzhen would play a greater role in fostering stronger bilateral trade between India and China.
Recalling her visit to Shenzhen 20 years ago, Rao congratulated the city officials for their hard work in making the former fishing village a modern city.
Rao also quoted Chinese President Hu Jintao as telling the Indian leadership that the positive developments in India-China relations should be made "irreversible."
BOI chairman and managing director M Balachandran said it was a privilege for the bank to commence operations in Shenzhen and serve Indian and Chinese businesses and contribute to enhanced bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
The bank would work closely with Shenzhen government and Chinese banking authorities to contribute to the city's growth as well as promotion of India-China bilateral ties, he said.
The Shenzhen government offered yuan 2 million ($2,59,740) as 'incentive' to BOI out of the yuan 200 million (over $25 million) BOI had brought into China as capital.