China not a threat to India, need for properly handling differences: Chinese envoy

China is not a “threat or strategic threat” to India, Chinese envoy Sun Weidong said on Thursday and called for “properly handling differences to bring the bilateral relations back on normal track”.

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) on `India-China Relations: The Way Forward’, he said that both China and India are facing severe challenges of COVID-19 and the “invisible virus rather than China is the threat facing India”.

“The general structure that China and India cannot live without each other remains unchanged… Both sides should grasp fundamental interests of the two countries and their people and stick to friendly cooperation and properly handle differences to bring the bilateral relations back to the normal track,” Sun said.

“And to move China-India relations forward, I believe that we need to strengthen our views on several key issues. First, China is committed to peace and development and it is not a threat or strategic threat to India. To safeguard world peace and promote common development have always been a fundamental goal of China’s diplomacy. Chinese people believe in peace and harmony and value sincerity and integrity,” he said.

Sun said the two countries should correctly analyse and view each other’s strategic intentions and “prevent misinterpretation and miscalculation in positive open and inclusive attitude”.

The Chinese ambassador said that China and India are at a critical period of national development and rejuvenation.

“At present, both China and India are facing severe challenges namely COVID-19, economic downturn and pressure on people’s livelihood and employment cost by the epidemic. I saw people wearing masks on the streets and the doctors and nurses in protective suites. I really feel that the invisible virus rather than China is the threat facing India. And in the face of the common enemy, China and India should work together to overcome difficulties,” Sun said.

He referred to the violent face-off in Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh last month between Indian and Chinese troops.

“China firmly upholds the sovereignty and meanwhile China will never engage in aggression and expansion. The rights and wrongs of the Galwan Valley incident are very clear… It is the legitimate right for every country to safeguard its own sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

Sun said it is “normal” for neighbours to have differences and the two countries should not allow development and overall interests of bilateral relations to be disturbed.

“The more challenges we face on the boundary question, the more we need to strengthen dialogue and communication… The two sides should make joint efforts to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area,” he said.

He said President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have stressed on many occasions that China and India are each other’s opportunities and pose no threat to each other.

“This has made a basic judgment on China-India relations and pointed out the right direction for the development of bilateral relations,” he said.

“Over the past decades, the two sides managed differences through dialogue and negotiations and establish various mechanisms such as special representatives meeting on the boundary question, reached a series of agreements to reach peace and tranquillity in the border areas and keep the channels of military and diplomat communication open. These good practices must continue,” he said.

Sun said it is “short-sighted and harmful” to deny the long history of peaceful co-existence between China and India and “to portray our friendly neighbours for thousands of years as an opponent or a strategic threat to the temporary differences and difficulties”.

He said China “opposes all forms of hegemonism and power politics”. “We have never been aggressive or pursued our own development at the expense of other countries,” he said.

Sun said China has a demarcated boundary with 12 of 14 land neighbours through friendly negotiations till now.

“This demonstrates that on the basis of mutual respect and treating each other as equal we can find the right way to find problems through peaceful negotiations. China has never claimed any land outside its own territory,” he said.

The Chinese envoy said that China will never seek hegemony and expansion and claimed that it never colonised other countries.

“China has a long history as the most powerful country in the world. But it never colonised other countries. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China 70 years ago, we have always pursued good neighbourly friendship, sought development with our neighbours and worked to make the power of coordination bigger,” Sun said.

“No matter how developed China may become, we will follow the path of peaceful development and will never seek hegemony and expansion. It has been formally written in China’s Constitution and it is our basic national policy and solid commitment,” he added.

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