Congress, Chinese Communist Party sign MoU (Lead)

August 7th, 2008 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Beijing, Aug 7 (IANS) India’s ruling Congress and the Communist Party of China (CPC) Thursday signed a pact to put in place a mechanism that would help regular high-level exchanges between them, soon after party chief Sonia Gandhi arrived here with her family for the Olympics inaugural ceremony. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) also provides the two parties the opportunity to consult each other on important bilateral, regional and international developments.

The MoU was signed by the Chinese vice-president and standing committee member of the CPC’s politburo, Xi Jinping, and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in the presence of his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi, sources told IANS.

“It is strictly on the party-to-party basis,” a source said here.

Sonia Gandhi, who is also the chairperson of India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) would meet Chinese President Hu Jintao at a banquet Friday that he is hosting for some of the world leaders who have come for the inaugural ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Before the signing of the MoU, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi held a meeting with Xi and other senior leaders of the Communist Party of China and held discussions on issues of mutual interest, the sources said.

Xi, one of the most prominent leaders of China, is widely believed to be a strong contender for the president’s post after Hu retires in 2012.

The Congress party, formally known as the Indian National Congress, had earlier this year signed a similar MoU with the African National Congress - a party with which it has historical and emotional links.

But the MoU with CPC comes shortly after the Left parties in India expressed their lack of trust in the Congress-led UPA government.

The fact that China, though aware of the recent developments in India, decided to go ahead and sign this document shows it is trying to build a relationship with the Congress, and the Nehru-Gandhi family in particular, that goes beyond the UPA government.

Sonia Gandhi arrived here Thursday along with Rahul, daughter Priyanka, son-in-law Robert Vadra and their two children to attend the opening of the Olympic Games.

A galaxy of world leaders, including US President George W. Bush, will also be present at the opening ceremony scheduled for Friday.

Gandhi is here only for two days and is scheduled to return to Delhi Saturday.

She and her family travelled from New Delhi to Beijing by a regular commercial Air China flight, and there was remarkably little fuss about their arrival here.

Since she does not hold any government post, Sonia Gandhi will be sitting in an enclosure reserved for the guests of the Chinese government at the opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest stadium. She will not be in the VVIP enclosure where President Hu, Bush and other heads of states and governments will be seated.

Sports Minister M.S. Gill, who is heading the government delegation, will get that privilege.

In October last year, Sonia Gandhi and her MP son Rahul had led a delegation of the Congress party to China. They were the first visitors invited to China after the Communist Party of China ended its party congress, and got a chance to interact with a number of leaders who are likely to play an important role in China in the near future.

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