Putting the Doklam military stand-off behind them, India and China on Friday achieved a new milestone in bilateral ties when they launched the high-level cultural and people-to-people exchanges mechanism to enhance mutual cooperation and promote greater understanding.

The mechanism, aimed at building synergies in people-to-people ties, was jointly launched by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with both leaders reaffirming their commitment to take Sino-India ties to greater heights in 2019.

‘’We must increase people-to-people exchanges between our two nations. This will help us in promoting state-to-state relations and greater understanding between us,’’ Wang said later as he inaugurated the 3rd India-China media forum with Swaraj.

Observing that India-China ties have reached a ‘new historical stage’, he said the two sides have identified ten pillars for cooperation under the newly-launched mechanism, including film and television, sports, traditional medicine, yoga, youth exchanges and education.

Earlier, the two ministers had wide-ranging talks on bilateral, regional and global issues.

Addressing the Chinese minister as ‘my close friend and brother’, Swaraj said peace and tranquillity in border areas between the two countries would lead to the smooth development of bilateral ties. She said the armies of the two countries were making efforts to strengthen cooperation and communication to avoid any untoward incident in the border areas.

Hailing the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, she said the decision to launch the mechanism was taken by the two leaders during their informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan in April. Since their informal summit, the two leaders have met thrice this year and now enjoy a great personal chemistry between them, she noted. India, she said, looked forward to the Chinese President’s visit in 2019 for another informal summit.

Swaraj said strong ties between the two countries were in the larger interest of the world. The two countries together represented one-third of humanity. China, she noted, had become the second largest global economy. India too was all set to become a 5 trillion-dollar economy.

Swaraj, however, grave concern over the yawning trade deficit between the two countries in China’s favour. She was happy that China has taken some steps in the last few months to reduce the trade gap.