Two days ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit, while an envoy termed China’s relations with India "very fragile" and "easy to be damaged", Beijing made a rare direct reference to the sensitive dispute of stapled visas.
"China-India relations are very fragile and very easy to be damaged and very difficult to repair. Therefore, they need special care in the information age," Chinese ambassador to India Zhang Yan said at a conference.
At the same function, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said that India has a "very commonsensical" and "very rational" approach to China.
In Beijing, assistant foreign minister Hu Zhengyue, while calling the visit a "big event" in bilateral ties, said on stapled visas, "We do not exclude the possibility of discussion on any issue."
In response to a media query, Hu said the visa issue would be discussed at the "working-level staff".
Wen’s visit comes at the close of an uneasy year for bilateral ties marked by India’s strong objections to Chinese stapled visas for Indians from Jammu and Kashmir. In the past, the Chinese foreign ministry has evaded direct references to the issue in public and only said that its Kashmir policy stays unchanged.
India’s candidature for a permanent place on the UN Security Council will also be discussed, the official confirmed. "We are happy to see India play a bigger role in the international arena including the UN," Hu said, sticking to the Chinese position of not expressing direct support for the bid.
Beijing’s pitch ahead of the visit was to emphasise India-China "friendship from generation to generation".
Diplomats are keen to enhance public exchanges and improve public opinion of the bilateral relationship. Wen will meet Indian representatives from cinema, literature and arts. Both sides will sign an agreement for exchanges for 2010-12 in sectors including media, youth, sports and opera.
Chinese analysts are commenting more cautiously on the week ahead.
In Shanghai, South Asia strategist Shen Dingli said Wen’s visit was a "regular" visit. "It is such constant exchange that will help improve relations."
(With inputs from Reshma Patil in Beijing)