China focuses on ties with India, Russia
Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday hailed his country's relations with India and Russia as Beijing looks to increase its heft on the global diplomatic stage.
Twin visits by New Delhi's foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Sergei Lavrov from Moscow come on the heels of a high-profile trip to India by US President Barack Obama last week, and with Russian leader Vladimir Putin globally isolated over the conflict in Ukraine.
Xi told Swaraj that China-India ties "have entered a new stage of growth" since he visited in September.
"The positive side of China-India relations has been growing, the momentum of our cooperation has been strengthening," he added.
China and India are the world's two most populous countries but ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours are still characterised by mutual suspicion, in large part as a legacy of a brief but bloody war in 1962 and a continuing border dispute.
But Swaraj was similarly effusive, telling Xi that "relations between our two countries have risen to a whole new level".
The Indian and Russian ministers' trips to Beijing -- for a three-way meeting with their Chinese counterpart -- came after Obama last week visited India.
The US and India share an interest in curbing Beijing's growing regional influence.
Although neither mentioned China by name during the three-day visit, Obama welcomed what he called a "greater role for India in the Asia-Pacific".
Freedom of navigation in the region must be upheld, he added.
Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
To Lavrov, meanwhile, Xi expressed his satisfaction with China-Russia ties.
Beijing and Moscow, allies and then adversaries during the Cold War, have found common ground internationally and often take similar stands at the UN Security Council where they have permanent veto powers.
They have also forged increasingly closer economic ties as China is hungry for the vast hydrocarbon resources of Russia, which is seeking stable markets amid Western sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and fighting in eastern Ukraine.
"Over the past year, we have together been advancing the development of the overall strategic relationship between China and Russia," Xi said.
"Our joint efforts have yielded rich results... our cooperation grows ever deeper," he added.
Lavrov pointed out that Xi and Putin met five times last year.
"The consensus reached at the highest level between the two leaders has played an extremely important role in pushing the development of relations in the right direction," he said.