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PM arrives in China on three-day visit
V S Chandrasekhar and Raghavendra in Beijing | January 13, 2008 15:08 IST
Seeking to push India-China relations to a vibrant and dynamic phase, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] arrived in Beijing [Images] on Sunday on his maiden visit, to a warm red carpet welcome in sub-zero temperatures.
Dai Bingguo, Executive Vice Foreign Minister and Special Representative for boundary talks with India, received the Prime Minister at the Beijing International Airport.
Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao and other officials were also present to receive Singh, who is accompanied by his wife Gur Sharan Kaur, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.
The formal ceremonial reception will be held on Monday at the Great Hall of People where Singh will hold delegation-level talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
The Prime Minister, who advanced his departure to avoid Delhi fog, will utilise the time for making a visit to the Olympic games stadium and a meeting with Indian businessmen for a briefing on issues that would come up during his discussions with the Chinese leadership on the economic side.
Later, he will have a one-on-one meeting over dinner with Wen on Sunday night.
Narayanan and Dai are expected to resume discussions at the Special Representatives level, on the boundary dispute, on the sidelines of the visit at an informal level. The two SRs have already held 11 rounds of discussions.
On Monday, the Prime Minister will attend a summit of businessmen from both sides where he is expected to unveil his vision to take the bilateral economic ties to a new level.
A high-level Indian delegation is already in Beijing to participate in the summit which will also be attended by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath. On Saturday, during discussions with his Chinese counterpart Cheng Deming, Nath had conveyed India's concerns over China's technical and discriminatory trade barriers while seeking to expand its trade basket.
The current bilateral trade between the two countries stand at about US$ 38.6 billion and is expected to touch the US$ 40 billion mark much before the target date of 2010.
Currently the trade deficit is in China's favour and India is hoping to alter the situation by raising its exports.
During the visit, Singh will also hold discussions with President Hu Jintao, whom he has met earlier in other venues. The Prime Minister will also address the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top think-tank.
In his departure statement in Delhi, the Prime Minister said he looked forward to his discussions with the Chinese leadership on the entire gamut of relationship.
"We are engaged in the process of giving substantive content to our partnership through comprehensive economic engagement and developing mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of science and technology, culture, education, defence and security, and increasing people-to-people contacts," he said.
He said that the issues relating to the boundary and cooperation with regard to trans-boundary rivers will be discussed apart from how to work more closely with China on regional, multilateral and global issues.
"China is our largest neighbour and also a focal point of our 'Look East' policy. We attach high priority to strengthening our relations with China," he said.
The two countries established a Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity when Premier Wen visited India in April, 2005. During President Hu's visit in November, 2006 the two countries laid down a ten-pronged strategy to qualitatively upgrade the bilateral ties.
Analysts do not expect any major breakthrough on the boundary question but feel that the political parameters already agreed upon between the two sides will be consolidated. The reports of Chinese incursions in Arunachal Pradesh are expected to figure in the discussions but the Indian side is not making a big issue of it.
Foreign Secretary Menon had sought to downplay the issue in the pre-visit briefing in Delhi, saying that mechanisms were already in place to discuss any such issue. Both sides had a difference of perception on activities on either side of the border.
The current visit, the fifth by an Indian Prime Minister, comes just weeks after India and China held their first-ever joint military exercise in a ground-breaking confidence building measure, in Kunming at Yunnan province.
The Chinese stand on India's civil nuclear cooperation is also expected to figure in Singh's discussions with the leadership here and Indian officials are positive about Beijing's position.