China on Monday reacted guardedly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks about an "expansionist" tendency among some countries, saying it is not clear what was he referring to and recalling his earlier comments that India and China are strategic partners.
"We have noted relevant information about Prime Minister Modi's visit to Japan. You just mentioned comments made by him I don't know what is he referring to," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing in Beijing when asked about Modi's remarks made during his ongoing visit to Japan.
Modi on Monday deplored the "expansionist" tendency among some countries which "encroach" upon the seas of others – a clear if indirect allusion to China's claims in the South China Sea.
"We have to decide if we want to have 'vikas vaad' (development) or 'vistar vaad' (expansionism), which leads to disintegration. Those who follow the path of Buddha and have faith on 'vikas vaad', they develop. But we see those having ideas of the 18th century, engage in encroachments and enter the seas (of others)," Modi said.
The foreign ministry spokesman said, "I can answer the (media's) question by quoting his words. He (Modi) said China and India are strategic partners for common development. Good neighbourliness and cooperation between the two counties is of great significance to the prosperity of the whole world and all mankind."
Asked how China sees Modi's visit to Japan ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposed visit to New Delhi expected to be in the third week of this month, Qin said, "I want to stress that China and India are major countries. We both advocate and practice the five principles of peaceful coexistence."
"With regard to Xi's visit to India, during BRICS summit, President Xi had a good meeting with Prime Minister Modi," he said, adding that the two leaders agreed that Xi should visit India in the near future.
While Qin was cautious in his reaction, an article in the state-run Global Times' web edition said Modi attaches more importance to Sino-Indian ties considering China's strategic importance to India.
"The Modi administration apparently views Sino-Indian relations as more important than Indian-Japanese relations," the article said.
(See: Modi draws $35-bn of Japanese funds; first sale of military hardware and Triumphant Modi beats a storm on Japanese drums )