Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's proposed visit to China may not take place before November or December on account of some crucial political and diplomatic activities in the communist country in September and October, an official source in Beijing said.
"We have started the process of consultations for the prime ministerial visit," the source told the Press Trust of India. "But no decision has been made in view of the high-profile events that are scheduled to take place in Chinese politics from now to early November."
While Beijing is keen to host Vajpayee earlier, New Delhi would like to wait till the dust settles on Chinese succession politics, the source said.
The Communist Party of China, the country's ruling party, is likely to hold its five-year congress some time in September-October this year. Top leaders, including General Secretary Jiang Zemin, are expected to retire at this congress.
Chinese leaders are currently meeting in the seaside resort of Beidaihe to work out details of the leadership change, including when to hold the party congress, which is usually in September or October.
But there are reports that the 16th party congress could be delayed until Jiang, who is also China's president, returns from the United States after a high-profile summit with his American counterpart, George W Bush, Jr, at the latter's ranch in Crawford, Texas, on October 25.
After his US trip, Jiang will also attend a meeting of leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Mexico on October 26-27. Thus, there is a strong possibility that the party congress could be delayed until early November.
Premier Zhu Rongji, who has invited Vajpayee to China, is also scheduled to undertake a visit to Europe in late September. Zhu is also supposed to retire from the standing committee of the CPC politburo at the congress.
Thus it is only natural that the Indian leadership would like to meet the new generation of Chinese leaders when Vajpayee visits Beijing after a gap of 23 years, the source said.
Vajpayee last visited China in 1979 when he was external affairs minister in the Janata Party government of Prime Minister Morarji Desai. The last Indian prime minister to visit China was P V Narasimha Rao in 1993.
Sources said the two sides are in the process of identifying mutually convenient dates for Vajpayee's visit. The visit was also discussed when External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha met his Chinese counterpart this week in Brunei on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Jiang himself has also welcomed Vajpayee to China. During their first-ever meeting on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia in Almaty on June 4, Jiang said Vajpayee was welcome to visit China.
Vajpayee told Jiang that he "is earnestly looking forward to visiting China and exchanging in-depth views with Chinese leaders on the further development of bilateral relations".
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