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May 28, 2000
President's historic China visit underway
Nikhil Lakshman in Beijing
President K R Narayanan arrived in China this evening on what by all accounts appears to be a historic visit. This is the highest-level visit by an Indian leader after India-China relations were seriously affected by the nuclear tests of May 1998.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yang Wenchang greeted the President and the First Lady on their arrival at Beijing airport at 1800 local time. Yang had represented China at the Joint Working Committee meeting in New Delhi last month.
Accompanying the President on his week-long visit to China are Union Minister Manohar Joshi, Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh, Somnath Chatterjee, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Ramachandran Pillai and Sushma Swaraj, MPs, and Murli Deora, patron of the India-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The President will be accorded an official welcome by Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Monday morning at the Great Hall of the People. He will attend a state banquet in his honour hosted by Jiang on Monday evening. After which the two Presidents will attend a concert featuring Dr L Subramaniam and the Beijing Symphony Orchestra.
On Tuesday, the President will meet Li Peng, the former Chinese prime minister and currently, the speaker of the national assembly. The President will also meet Li Ruihuan, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party's consultative committee.
He will meet Chinese Premier Zhu Ronghji on Wednesday morning.
The President will also address students and teachers at Peking University on Tuesday morning.
On the last Presidential visit-Ramaswamy Venkataraman visited China in 1992 -- he was not invited to make any speech nor did he meet with as many Chinese leaders that Narayanan will encounter this week. Sources said the unusual courtesy extended to Narayanan could be a consequence of the high esteem the Chinese hold the Indian President.
Narayanan is credited with halting the slide in Sino-Indian relations after he told a visiting Chinese delegation in January 1999 that China was not a threat to India nor would India ever be a threat to China.
The President served as India's ambassador to China for three years after relations between the two countries were normalised in 1976, for the first time since the 1962 war.
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