Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told a room-full of policy wonks assembled at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC that there's no denying that the boundary issue with China is a major impediment to wholesome ties with China, but that this has not hindered the advanced of a political dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing.
Following her address to the center on the India-US partnership, during the question and answer session that was followed, asked about the tension with China, Rao said both countries 'are focusing on and negotiating a settlement for this outstanding issue,' but that relations between both countries 'have improved significantly in the last two decades particularly and we have a broad spectrum, multi-dimensional relationship between India and China that covers many areas.'
Rao, India's erstwhile ambassador to China before she assumed the post of Foreign Secretary, thus argued, "It's not just focused on the boundary question alone -- although that in a sense requires resolution to achieve a full blown, well-functioning relationship between the two countries. There is no doubt about it."
"But, that hasn't hindered the advancement of dialogue at the political level. That hasn't hindered the advancement of trade and business relations or better connectivity between the two countries and the traffic of ideas and of people between India and China has really increased," she said. "And, so the awareness levels of what each country is doing today is much greater."
Rao acknowledged, "Of course, the rise of China and of course, the rise of India has become an object of world attention and many I know in the West and also I see many media commentaries about so-called competition between India and China -- sort of a race between India and China."
She said there was no denying that 'in both our countries we see there is a competitive edge to the relationship, but there is also a great deal of collaboration and cooperation between our two countries.'
Rao said, in terms of a China perspective, India believes that 'we need to look at China with the widest possible field of vision. Of course, China's economic development, China's rise, China's growing military strength, China's relations with our neighbours, all these percolate our vision when it comes to seeing how our own relationship with China should be structured.'
But continuing to reiterate and allay concerns that a border war with China is possible, following some skirmishes last year, questions which has been posed to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh too when he visited Washington in November on a state visit at the invitation of US President Obama, Rao asserted that 'there is peace on our borders with China. There is tranquility.'
"We speak of confidence building measures being augmented. There is a defense-level dialogue. Our defense establishment and the People's Liberation Army, Air Force and Navy are in touch with each other," she said.
"So, in many ways, we have covered a lot of ground in a positive sense as far as our relationship," she added.