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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Jul 2014

Diplomacy drive on, PM sets his sights on China

Jayanth Jacob and Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times  Beijing/New Delhi, May 29, 2014
First Published: 17:51 IST(29/5/2014) | Last Updated: 10:29 IST(30/5/2014)

After South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now set his sights on China. On Thursday, he invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit India even as preparations are on to welcome his special envoy, foreign minister Wang Yi, who arrives in Delhi on June 8.

Modi extended the invitation to Xi during a phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang — the first world leader he spoke to after assuming office. Li called the PM and congratulated him on his victory in the elections. Xi is expected in India later this year with high-level visits planned on both sides.

The China outreach is a continuation of Modi’s brand of fast-track diplomacy, which started with the Saarc country heads — including Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif — attending his swearing-in ceremony on Monday. This was followed a day later by meetings between the PM and the visiting dignitaries.

The Chinese foreign minister’s visit next month will see him hold discussions with counterpart Sushma Swaraj and with Modi.

During the phone call on Thursday, Li conveyed his government’s “desire to establish a robust partnership with the new government of India”, the external affairs ministry said. Modi, in turn, told Li he was keen on working closely with the Chinese leadership to deal with any outstanding issues and added that he “welcomed greater economic engagement between the two countries”.

Even before Li’s call, China had reiterated it was ready to do business with the new government in India through statements from its foreign ministry and when state councilor Yang Jiechi spoke with Indian ambassador to China Ashok K Kantha on Tuesday.

Keeping the unresolved border with China incident-free is an imperative for the new government to do greater business with Beijing and to calibrate its foreign policy for the region and beyond.

Though the two countries have set a bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2015, the huge trade deficit — $40 billion at present  — has remained a cause for concern for Delhi. A key focus for India is to seek greater market access for its products to bridge the deficit.

Modi has been impressed with China’s economic development and for his visit to the country in the past as chief minister of Gujarat, he had even had his visiting card printed in Chinese.

Analysts said that if nothing else, trade and business ties between the two Asian giants were likely to strengthen in the coming years.


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