China’s second most important leader to visit India this year

May 26th, 2008 - 3:06 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Wu Bangguo, the number two in the Chinese leadership’s pecking order, will visit India later this year to keep up the momentum in the high-level interaction between the two Asian neighbours. “Wu will visit India later this year, but the exact dates are still being worked out,” official sources told IANS.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to visit Beijing from June 4 to 7 for talks with the Chinese leaders. The dates of Wu’s visit to India are likely to be finalised during the minister’s meetings in Beijing.

Wu is the chairman of the National People’s Congress, the speaker of China’s parliament. He is also a member of the nine-member standing committee of the Chinese Communist Party’s politburo. His ranking in the committee comes after President Hu Jintao but before Premier Wen Jiabao and six other senior leaders.

India and China had gone to war in 1962 over a boundary dispute and have a long history of hostile relations. But in recent years both sides have been trying to iron out their differences and improve relations with regular exchanges of senior leaders. Wu’s proposed visit to India is part of that policy.

“High level visits between the two countries have now become a regular feature in our diplomatic calendar,” the sources said.

The Chinese premier visited India in April 2005 and signed a Strategic Partnership agreement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The next year President Hu visited New Delhi to hold talks with the Indian leadership.

In October last year, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, who is one of the general secretaries of the Congress party, visited China.

In January this year Manmohan Singh visited China and as per the agreement between the two sides, President Pratibha Patil will visit Beijing sometime next year.

“The perception gap between India and China was one of the reasons for the hostilities in 1962,” Srikanth Kondapalli, chairperson of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for East Asian Studies said.

“Exchanges at the highest political level always help in understanding and in addressing the concerns of each other,” Kondapalli told IANS.

The external affairs minister will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and other senior leaders in Beijing on the entire gamut of the bilateral relations.

But the talks are taking place at a time when a number of reports have appeared in the national media about deployment of missiles and a military build-up by China.

In addition there have also been reports about “incursions” by Chinese troops inside Indian territories in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

“If one ignores the media reports and only goes by the public statement made by the Indian army chief then one can conclude that nothing unusual has been happening in our borders with China,” former Indian ambassador Vinod Khanna told IANS.

He argued that what has been coming out in the Indian media was perhaps a reflection of the disappointment from some sections in New Delhi on the lack of progress on the boundary issue for which they blame China. But there was a number of other areas where the two sides managed to show forward movement.

“The Indian prime minister had a very successful visit to China early this year and the two sides have cooperated quite well on a number of other areas” Khanna said.

“India’s relations with China are complex and we will have to manage them intelligently. There should neither be euphoria nor paranoia,” he added.

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