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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 13:44 GMT
India and China open air route
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiazuan and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh
Relations between the two have been less than warm
The first ever direct commercial flight between India and China landed in Delhi on Thursday.

The China Eastern Airlines flight, carrying carried 100 passengers including senior officials. was hailed as a milestone in improving relations between the former rivals.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh is due to leave for China on the same plane on Friday.

The direct air link is expected to boost trade links between the two Asian giants.

The Indian foreign minister will also visit South Korea and Burma.

New link

"It is a big event in the history of the relations between the two countries," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.

"We hope that this air link can serve as a bond connecting the two peoples in a bond of friendship," she added.

China Eastern Airlines is operating a twice-a-week flight connecting Beijing and Shanghai with Delhi, using an Airbus 340 aircraft.

Bao Peide, a senior official with China's Civil Aviation Administration said India was a new destination for his country's aviation industry.

"We are not quite familiar with Indian airspace but we've fully prepared for this flight and we're confident of doing a good job," he said.

Uneasy ties

Relations between the two countries have been less than warm, especially because of China's proximity to India's long-time rival, Pakistan.

China and India fought a bitter border war in 1962 and since then have viewed each other with suspicion.

But recently, growing business interests have helped break the ice.

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visited India in January and said then that his country was committed to forging closer economic ties.

Total trade between India and China stands at about $3bn and the prime minister said the two countries would aim to increase it to $10bn this year.

China and India are both touted as economic superpowers of the future, and there is plenty of scope for co-operation between them.

For example China believes it can draw on India's vast reservoir of trained computer scientists to develop the software side of its information technology sector.

See also:

18 Jan 01 | South Asia
China and India reach out
15 Jan 02 | Business
China and India build business links
28 Jun 01 | South Asia
China, India in fresh border talks
11 Jan 01 | South Asia
China and India: Suspicions remain
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