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China accords red carpet welcome for Vajpayee
June 22, 2003 19:56 IST
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on Sunday accorded a red carpet welcome on his arrival for a ground breaking official visit to China.
The visit is aimed to meet with the new generation of Chinese leaders and forge better mutual understanding and trust and resolve pending bilateral problems in a peaceful manner.
On his arrival at the VIP terminal of the Beijing International Airport, Vajpayee, the fourth Indian prime minister to visit China since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1950, was warmly greeted by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Indian Ambassador to China, Shiv Shankar Menon.
Vajpayee, who is heading a high-profile official delegation that includes Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley as well as scores of CEOs of major Indian industries and editors of major Indian media organisations, was driven straight to a hotel in a motor cavalcade.
Before departing from New Delhi, Vajpayee said India accorded 'top priority' to its ties with China, adding his government wanted to tackle the new challenges and move on the road to progress in cooperation with Beijing.
"I am confident that the visit would have a positive outcome. My message to China is that of friendship", Vajpayee said.
The security was tight at the VIP terminus of Beijing International Airport.
The ceremonial welcome at the historic Great Hall of People is slated for Monday morning prior to talks with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.
Before boarding the special Air India Jumbo in Delhi for the six-hour flight to the Chinese capital, Vajpayee said in a written statement that he believed his discussions with the new Chinese leadership would help in building new understanding and trust between the two Asian giants.
"There is compelling geographic, political and economic logic for closer relations between our two countries," he said.
But he had already told the people of China through media interviews that he was coming with a message of peace, amity, trust, understanding and cooperation and that he saw no objective reason for discord between the two neighbours.
Seeking to dampen any expectations of settlement to the border issue, top Indian officials told journalists on board the special flight that in a comprehensive relationship one issue cannot be all defining. A framework to resolve the issue existed and 'we are moving at a speed comfortable to both the sides'.
Nonetheless, the Indian side expects the prime ministerial visit to be 'extremely successful' with a number of agreements, including one on easing visa restrictions, scheduled to be signed before Vajpayee leaves for home.
Vajpayee himself has said in interviews carried in the Chinese media ahead of his visit that the resolution of the border dispute should be fair to both sides and has to be mutually acceptable.
His Chinese counterpart Jiabao had told PTI on Saturday that Beijing wanted a 'fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution' of the issue, adding a new formulation that China favoured 'solutions on equal footing for this purpose'.
Indian officials emphasised the process of finding a settlement of the border issue was continuing through the mechanism of the Joint Working Group and that the visit went far beyond the boundary issue. The JWG is expected to meet later this year to continue discussions.
Vajpayee had visited China in 1979 as external affairs minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet but called off his visit midway to the country when China attacked Vietnam. He had visited the country in 1993 as a member of a parliamentary delegation.
On the border issue, the Chinese prime minister had told PTI his country has always held a positive attitude towards it. "We are ready to join the Indian side in advancing this process."
India accuses China of occupying approximately 38,000 sq kms of territory in Kashmir. In addition under the so-called Sino-Pakistan 'boundary agreement' of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5180 sq kms of Indian territory in Pak-occupied Kashmir to China. At the same time China lays claim to 90,000 sq kms of land in Arunachal Pradesh.
During his stay in Beijing, Vajpayee will also hold separate meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, chairman of the Central Military Commission and former president Jiang Zemin, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Wu Bangguo and Vice-President Zeng Qinghong.
In their talks, Vajpayee and Wen are expected to discuss further confidence building measures to maintain peace and tranquility along the Sino-Indian border areas that would boost similar steps taken by the two sides in 1993 and 1996.