Indian ambassador sets ambitious goal for improving ties with China

     In his first interview with Chinese media since taking office, India's Ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, is upbeat about the momentum in the development of Sino-Indian relations, describing it as a "very good story" characterized by booming trade, regular contacts between State leaders as well as rising interaction between the two peoples and even the armed forces of the two countries. He also brushed aside media reports of conflict along the border as "sensational" and "alarmist". China is India's largest trading partner, and bilateral trade is set to surpass 60 billion dollars next year - a 30-fold jump from 2000. "This is a relationship very open both in terms of what we can do and also in terms of the progress we can make," Jaishankar said. He recalled that the two countries had set a trade target of 40 billion dollars for 2010 during President Hu Jintao's visit to India in November 2006. "But we met the target much faster than we had expected," he said. The top envoy presented his credentials to President Hu on August 28. The ambassador added that he did not want to define what specific progress he expected to see in bilateral ties because "I don't want to limit my ambitions". "Once we have discovered the virtues of working with each other, there is really no limit to our cooperation," Jaishankar said. Despite the headway made in trade, he admits that there are challenges to be dealt with to take the current level of cooperation to a higher level. "A good story can always be improved, or better told. That is part of the task while I am here," he said. One of the biggest challenges, he said, is to improve understanding between the two peoples, which he said is not on par with the ever-closer links being forged between the two countries. "The public perception and the media perception (in the two countries) are still a little bit behind the reality in relations," he said. Jaishankar suggested that the sense of ownership of this relationship should be broadened to include not only governments, but also more people, organizations and "stakeholders" spanning a wider spectrum of society. Only then can the two countries keep their relations "stable and predictable". As for the problems in bilateral relations, he said it is "natural" for countries that have genuine and substantial relations with each other to face a lot of these. He refused to call such problems "irritants", and instead termed them as "issues". "Only when you have real relations, you have issues," he said, adding that sometimes issues don't necessarily imply something bad. Issues, sometimes, can spring from progress. Today, our trade is big, but we also have trade issues," he said, pointing out that it is not reasonable to expect that "we agree on everything". The most important thing is how constructively the two countries can deal with such issues, he said. Regarding rampant reports, by a section of media in both countries, about tensions along the border, Jaishankar said people should not take these too seriously. "I also read those media reports. Their basic concept is flawed," he said.

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