The outside world has been curious about the future interaction of China and India, given the two Asian giants' swift emergence as world powers in the last two decades. Meanwhile, debates on the dragon and elephant wrestling catch people's attention at times. Some publications on the theme became bestsellers. These publications, with cover images featuring the dragon and the elephant fighting each other, seem to remind readers that there would probably be a confrontation between China and India in the future as the 21st century is undoubtedly an Asian century.
However, the divergence between the two has been exaggerated intentionally or unintentionally. Leaders from major Indian political parties said with the gradual rise of the two countries, their common interests and the complementary nature of their relations have become more prominent. Both are focusing on economic development and addressing domestic social problems such as poverty, employment and wealth gaps. Their bilateral relations emphasize cooperation and learning from each other, while differences remain.
"The rise of both countries is not confrontational, not adverse; it is very complementary to each other," Shri Manish Tewari, a spokesman of the Indian National Congress (INC), the major party of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, and a member of the lower house of the Indian Parliament, told Beijing Review at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
Shri Manish Tewari, spokesman of the Indian National Congress (CHEN CHAO)
The similar fate in the past 200 years has helped China and India establish a good start for their relations after emerging from foreign control. Though border disputes caused a rift for years, the common destiny of the two countries has drawn them closer.
The rapid growth of the two economies has contributed to the acceleration of their mutual interaction. According to the INC spokesman, in recent seven years, the presidents and prime ministers from the two countries have met more than 25 times.
In 2011, the two countries witnessed the Year of China-India Exchange. Many activities were held to promote mutual understanding. And this year is the Year of Friendship and Cooperation between China and India, launched by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the fourth summit of the BRICS group of major emerging economies in New Delhi at the end of March.
"If you talk about the 21st century, people would like to call it the Asian century. That's our shared destiny," said Tewari. "So in a sense, we believe both India and China have a role to play. The rise of one is not at the cost of the other."
"China and India together constitute one third of the world's population. A closer bond between India and China will benefit the world, not only the region. I think the first issue is better cooperation between India and China. One of the most important areas for Sino-Indian relations is economic cooperation," said Sitaram Yechury, a member of upper house of the Indian Parliament and a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM), the fourth largest party in the Indian Parliament.
Sitaram Yechury, a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (LU ANQI)
In the last decade, Sino-Indian bilateral trade has increased by leaps and bounds, from $2.92 billion in 2000 to about $70 billion in 2011. And the bilateral trade volume is expected to surpass $100 billion by 2015.
Yechury said there is a lot of synergy that can be developed between India and China if policies are worked out according to certain planning.
"For instance, China is really ahead of India in terms of hardware information technology. India has an advantage in terms of software information technology. Now if we are able to synergize these two, there is tremendous potential for development in terms of the sector of information technology. Like this, I think there are lots of probabilities which should be explored," said Yechury.
In 2003, a joint study group was set up to examine potential complementarities between the two countries in expanding trade and economic cooperation. In September 2011, the first Sino-Indian Strategic and Economic Dialogue, a forum to discuss strategic and macroeconomic issues impacting both nations, took place in Beijing.