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Easy, informal Vajpayee meets Indians in Beijing
Pallavi Aiyar in Beijing | June 24, 2003 21:05 IST
A visibly relaxed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee joked and chatted with the Indian community in Beijing on Tuesday evening.
At a reception hosted by the outgoing Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Menon at the St Regis Hotel, there was an air of excited expectancy as people nibbled on samosas and sipped fizzy orange drinks awaiting what was for many their first meeting with Vajpayee.
Those gathered comprised mainly the nearly 300-strong Indian community in Beijing, ranging from diplomats and their spouses to Indian restaurant owners and even a student writing a master's thesis on comparative Sino-India cinema. Also around were members from the business delegation accompanying Vajpayee.
The prime minister said the Indo-Chinese relationship had historically transcended merely an economic character and encompassed cultural and familial ties.
Kuo Kotnis then presented Vajpayee with a book written in Bengali about the doctor's life. Vajpayee read out the inscription, stumbling occasionally over its grammatically erratic English.
The prime minister diffidently asked the late doctor's wife if he had pronounced her name correctly.
The feel good, easy atmosphere was maintained through the reception. The prime minister congratulated Ambassador Menon on the excellent work he had done in China and smilingly said: "He (the ambassador) is now being sent somewhere where he will need to do even more excellent work!" He was referring to the ambassador's new posting as the high commissioner in Islamabad.
As the reception came to a close, there was the inevitable request for a poem, at which point a Chinese gentleman broke through the crowds and spoke to Vajpayee in flawless Hindi. He said he had translated the Ramayana into Chinese and would be honoured to translate one of the PM's poems as well.
At first hesitant, Vajpayee eventually stood up and recited what appeared to be a spontaneous poem that alluded to the difficult but much improved bilateral ties between China and India. Not a very poetic topic perhaps, but made so in the hands of the poet prime minister.
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