When external affairs minister Salman Khurshid called on Li Keqiang on Monday, the Chinese PM started off with an old Chinese saying, “When you meet for the first time you are strangers, by the time you meet second time, you are friends, so we are friends.” Khurshid had met him for the first time on May 10.
Li, 57, is effusive and doesn’t fit the “very cryptic” description that most had about Chinese leaders, say diplomats.
Li used Sunday’s dinner hosted by the PM and Monday’s joint press-appearance to describe his trip to India 27 years ago as the head of the youth wing of his party. Indian hospitality and his visit to Taj Mahal, Indian varsities — all these figured in Li’s conversations. He also talked about Bollywood film 3 idiots, which he watched on his daughter’s advice.
Though China has a state-controlled media, the premier lost no time in making use of the Indian media opportunity. During ceremonial receptions at Rashtrapati Bhavan, there is a practice of All India Radio representative asking the dignitary about his “expectations.” Usually, it’s a 90-second answer. But Li spoke for seven minutes and even said when Manmohan Singh visits Beijing he would get similar, big media coverage.
He chose a vegetarian meal on Sunday, but he wasn’t keen for a repeat at the banquet lunch on Monday. The menu included tamatar aur dhaniya shorba soup, grilled fish, kadai prawn curry, nizami handi, kadai panner — an Indian affair.
An Indian official said Li never misses chances to strike a chord of familiarity. He told a bureaucrat who had led a team to China, “I have met you in Beijing”.
But will he write a new chapter in the bilateral ties. “Well, its too early too say,” says an official.