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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

PMs’ day out: Li guides Manmohan Singh in Forbidden City

Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times  Beijing, October 24, 2013
First Published: 01:51 IST(24/10/2013) | Last Updated: 01:54 IST(24/10/2013)

China is juggling with three prime ministers but Manmohan Singh got his bit under the afternoon sun on Wednesday. Accompanied by Premier Li Keqiang, Singh went on a visit to the historic Forbidden City on Wednesday afternoon, a rare outing for the Indian prime minister who seldom dawns the tourist hat on official visits.

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But with Li often acting as the guide through the labyrinthine Forbidden City buildings, built in the beginning of the 15th century, Singh had little to complain.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and the Mongolian prime minister Norov Altankhuyag are also here but it was with Singh that Li spent around 40 minutes in the City with the Chinese Premier describing the site and its symbolism to his Indian counterpart.

While the flow of tourists was regulated during the visit, the hugely popular tourist site wasn’t completely shut down. It gave an opportunity for both leaders to mingle with a group of tourists and shaking hands with some of them.

The surprise group responded by cheering and clapping as Li and Singh stepped in amid them. Li was accompanied by foreign minister, Wang Yi. National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, and Ambassador S Jaishankar were with Singh.

Chinese foreign ministry sources said the Forbidden City visit and Singh’s banquet appointment with former Premier Wen Jiabao — a rare instance where a former Chinese leader invites a current one for lunch — were signs of warming of Sino-Indian ties. But the Singh’s visit also got largely positive coverage from the usually critical state media.

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