New Delhi: Injecting some warmth in traditionally frosty relationships, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday hailed India as a "great neighbour" and also, for the first time ever in the context of bilateral relationships, uttered the word ''strategic.'' Perhaps, in this regard the Beijing leadership is merely bowing to the inevitable, given the fact that India has now successfully broken the shackles of a regional identity and is headed for an acknowledged role as one of the world's eminent economic and political powers.
Today, India commands far more credibility in its relationships with other nations than China has managed in all its decades as a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent member.
China's influence may be respected by all but its popularity and credibility amongst nations may not amount to much. In a recent poll for a seat on a UN body it polled substantially fewer votes than India.
In a statement read out by interpreters Jiabao expressed confidence that the two countries would reach "important strategic consensus" during the visit and take bilateral ties to an "even higher level".
"I hope that my visit will help increase our cooperation in wide-range of fields and raise our friendship and cooperation to an even higher level," Jiabao said through a prepared statement after being accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan here.
With prime minister Manmohan Singh by his side, Jiabao said that China and India now faced good opportunities to expand cooperation and pursue common development goals.