Rahul Gandhi invited to China again

June 13th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) The Chinese leadership is planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing by inviting his son Rahul Gandhi, general secretary of the ruling Congress party, to visit China for the commemorative event. The late prime minister had gone to China Dec 19-23, 1988 at the invitation of the then Chinese premier Li Peng. His widow Sonia Gandhi, who is now the Congress president and chairperson of the ruling United progressive Alliance (UPA), had also accompanied him.

That visit is widely seen as having set the stage for the gradual rapprochement in Sino-Indian ties that has resulted in regular high-level bilateral visits.

Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had visited China last year to strengthen bilateral ties, particularly between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Congress party. The invitation to Rahul Gandhi to lead a Congress delegation to China has been extended by the CPC.

Zhang Yan, China’s ambassador to India, confirmed that an invitation was extended to Rahul Gandhi.

“Our relations with the Congress are very old and we want to maintain good and strong ties with the party,” Zhang told IANS.

A number of seminars, conferences and other meetings about the growing Sino-Indian ties and how the two sides can take them forward will be the main focus for the 20th anniversary celebrations.

But the programme was still in the process of being finalised, the envoy said.

“Clearly Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988 was a landmark in Sino-Indian ties,” Alka Acharya of the Centre for East Asian Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, told IANS.

“Both in terms of bilateral relations and in the context of a larger strategic perspective it was an extremely important visit as it helped to push forward the bilateral relations between India and China,” she said.

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