Ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit, China on Monday said its relations with India were 'very fragile' and needed special care and guidance from the government to the public to avoid a war of words.
"China-India relations are very fragile and very easy to be damaged and very difficult to repair. Therefore, they need special care in the information age," Chinese envoy to India Zhang Yan said at a conference.
Observing that public perception was vital to the development of relations, he said efforts should be made on both sides to create an objective and friendly environment based on mutual trust to ensure that there is no wrong perception of each other.
"To achieve this, the government should provide guidance to the public to avoid a war of words," Zhang said at the conference on India-China relations organised by FICCI.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who was present at the conference, sought to assuage the feelings of the Chinese envoy by telling him that India has a 'very commonsensical' and 'very rational' approach to China.
But at the same time, she highlighted the 'vibrant and noisy nature' of democracy to which the Chinese were exposed in India.
"Often, our Chinese friends speak of a certain gulf in appreciation of each country vis-a-vis the other, especially when it comes to opinions that are expressed in the media of the two countries," Rao said.
"Our Chinese friends are increasingly exposed to the vibrant, I would say, noisy nature of our democracy. The fact that many schools of thought contend, many opinions are expressed which are often at divergence with each other. But I would urge them to understand that there is a certain very commonsensical, very rational approach that we in India have to China," she said.
"We see you as our largest neighbour, we regard in a real sense and an absolute sense the importance of building bridges with China, understanding China better, creating more of a mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries," Rao said.
The foreign secretary said the betterment of relations with China was of great importance not only to the Indian leadership but also for the business and for the industry of both the countries.
The foreign secretary underlined the need for a 'laser-like' focus in areas like science and technology, which 'regretfully' have seen little cooperation. She noted that science and technology was one of the areas of cooperation agreed upon during the 2006 visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
"Regretfully, one must say that we have not been able to record any significant achievement in that area," she said. "We need to be more laser-like, looking at the areas that need a sharper focus in the relationship," Rao said.
She said negotiations on the boundary question have a certain momentum and both the countries have maintained peace and tranquillity along the common border for many decades now. "That itself is a significant achievement. In the noise of public opinion, some of these aspects tend to be ignored or tend to be glossed over. But these are significant achievements in every sense of the word," Rao said.
She said Chinese project contracts in India have touched 25 billion dollars. Noting that there has been a significant increase in the volume of trade between the two countries, she said India looked forward to more Chinese investments in the infrastructure sector.
"We need greater synergy and dialogue to explore the lessons that we could draw from the Chinese model of infrastructure development for the benefit of the business and engineering community of the countries," she said.
Rao expressed satisfaction over CBSE introducing Chinese language in school curricula and noted that Hindi language and India studies were being taught in several Chinese universities.
"We need more intellectual rigour when it comes to studying each other. It is not just dealing with strategy or dealing with confidence building in defence or security spheres or coming up with solutions to the boundary question. There is much more than that" (to the relationship), she said.
Rao said India and China need to adopt a scientific approach while studying each other. She said the two countries had made significant achievements in their relationship since the visit of the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to China in 1988.
"We were able to create a paradigm of how to build this relationship," Rao said, adding the visit was a mutual acknowledgement of the fact that the two countries needed to engage with each other.
"I think that has been the effort in the last two-and-a-half decades to construct a certain framework of relationship that goes beyond the unresolved issues or outstanding issues and buttressing the relationship by increasing interaction in trade, commerce, industry and exchange of people," Rao said.