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Home > News > Report

Unique Chinese gesture for PM

Nikhil Lakshman | January 13, 2008 21:17 IST

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The gesture is a keen component of Chinese diplomacy, used dexterously to indicate both displeasure and approval.

In 1979, the Chinese invaded Vietnam when then external affairs minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was visiting Beijing [Images], the first visit by an Indian leader since the 1962 war. The Chinese could have waited till Vajpayee left the country, but by choosing its moment of invasion, it demonstrated that it didn't care about India's feelings.

On Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao used the gesture to convey a different emotion towards India. By hosting an informal dinner ('restricted private dinner' as it was described) for Dr Manmohan Singh [Images] -- the first time such a courtesy has ever been extended to an Indian prime minister -- Beijing informed the world that it could do business with India and its leader.

The dinner at the Diaoyutai guest house was limited to the prime ministers and six guests from either side.

Batting for the Indian team were Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister T K A Nair, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Nirupama Rao, India's ambassador to China. The Chinese side were represented by the Indians's counterparts.

A guest present at the dinner later marveled at the bon homie between the two prime ministers as they discussed the challenges of development in their respective countries. "It was also not the usual dinner where only the leaders chat and we listen," this guest said, "we had interesting exchanges with our counterparts."

The guest would not confirm if the two sides had discussed any dramatic breakthrough at the dinner, which could be finalised when Dr Singh meets Wen and President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People on Monday evening.

The prime minister, who arrived at 0651 local time (0421 IST) on Sunday morning, had a quiet first day, visiting an exhibition for the Beijing Olympics [Images] in the morning and meeting with Indian businessmen in the afternoon.