Pranab goes to China Wednesday on four-day visit

June 4th, 2008 - 12:29 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 3 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee embarks on a four-day visit to China Wednesday during which he will discuss an entire range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the decades-old boundary row and the intensification of their economic ties. Mukherjee will hold talks with his counterpart Yang Jiechi and also call on Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing.

His visit comes amid growing criticism from political critics about New Delhi’s “appeasement” of Beijing over border incursions and the Tibetan protests.

This will be the first high-level contact between the two countries since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China in January that resulted in a Vision Document on bilateral ties and spurred the two countries to increase their two-way trade to $60 billion by 2010.

Mukherjee will formally inaugurate India’s new consulate in the economic hub of Guangzhou, that has been in the forefront of China’s economic liberalization and boasts external trade of over $650 billion.

The decision to set up India’s consulate in Guangzhou and China’s consulate in Kolkata was taken during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India in 2006. Gautam Bambawale is India’s consul-general in Guangzhou.

Mukherjee will also meet the 97-year-old Ji Xianlin, one of China’s leading Indologists who warmed the hearts of millions of his countrymen with his translation of the Ramayana from the Sanskrit to Chinese during the Cultural Revolution.

In a recent article titled “A neighbour and a friend in need” in the China Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese government, India’s ambassador to China Nirupama Rao set a positive tone for Mukherjee’s visit by highlighting the $5 million assistance offered by India to China for relief activities for the victims of the recent earthquake.

Beijing has already expressed its appreciation over the way New Delhi handled the Tibetan demonstrations in its capital in April without allowing this to affect the torch relay for the Beijing Olympic Games.

But India’s chief opposition the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has seen in all this a “craven attitude” of the government towards appeasing China.

In a hawkish document on foreign policy, the party Tuesday pointed to a host of activities by Beijing like the recent upgradation of China’s military base in Qinghai, just 1,900 km northeast of New Delhi, the establishment of 60 missile launch bases in Tibet and China’s new nuclear submarine base on Hainan island to make its point.

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