Underling the importance of its nuclear-armed neighbors, China on Monday said that India is a key player in maintaining the safety of crucial maritime channels in the Indian Ocean, whereas Pakistan serves as a bridge between Beijing and the Islamic world.
"India and Pakistan serve different yet important roles in China's diplomatic relations," Sun Shihai, vice director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told state-run Global Times. His remarks coincided with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India and Pakistan. Li is currently in India on a three-day visit, his maiden foreign tour after assuming office.
"India is a key player in maintaining the safety of maritime channels on the Indian Ocean, which is crucial to China's trade with the Middle East and Africa. Pakistan, on the other hand, can cast great influence on other Islamic countries such as Afghanistan and serves as a bridge between China and the Middle East," he said.
Both countries possess nuclear weapons which naturally makes them strategically vital to regional safety, he said. Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China has mutual interests with both countries and has sought to promote development and facilitate peace in the region.
"China's development requires a stable neighbouring environment. It is against China's fundamental interests to see conflicts break out between India and Pakistan," Fu said.
Commenting on Li's visit, former Chinese Ambassador to India Hua Junduo termed the border issue as the biggest problem plaguing Sino-Indian relations.
While both countries have reached a consensus to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution, through equal and friendly consultations, it is a complex issue, and it will be difficult to resolve, especially in the spotlight of public nationalism in both countries.
"Therefore, the final settlement of the issue will require not only sincerity, but also patience. The two sides have agreed to make joint efforts to maintain peace in the border areas and ensure that the boundary issue will not affect bilateral relations," he said.
"Obviously, this high-level consensus is of great significance, because, with the development of bilateral relations and the growing number of exchanges and increasing common interests between the two countries, the time for resolving issues left over by history, including the border dispute, is approaching maturity”, he said.
Making peoples of both sides aware of consensus between their leadership is a very important task. There are plenty of people who are reluctant to see friendship between the two countries and hope to see long-lasting hostility between them, Hua said.
"But the people of China and India must not facilitate the schemes of those who are ill-disposed toward friendly ties between the two neighbours, they should understand that friendly ties are in the fundamental interests of China and India," he said.
Terming Li's visit eventful, state-run China Daily in its editorial said Premier starting visit with India and Pakistan showed the importance China attaches to developing constructive ties with its neighbours.
While Beijing and New Delhi are well aware of the significance of maintaining constructive engagement, their relations have proven vulnerable to a lack of trust. Face-to-face communication is always the best way to build mutual trust, it said.
Intensive cooperation between China and the two major players in the South Asia subcontinent not only caters to the interests of all three, but also contributes to regional peace and development, it said.
Li's visit to Pakistan comes at an important time, as Pakistan has just concluded a general election. There could not be a better chance for the two sides to compare notes and inject new vitality into their all-weather and special friendship.
"We have every reason to place high hopes on Li's ongoing four-nation visit to South Asia," it said.