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Krishna meet Chinese leaders in Beijing

Foreign minister SM Krishna flew out of Beijing today after a day of low-key but important meetings through Wednesday with some among the Chinese leaders and diplomats who have a say in the country's foreign policy and strategic thinking.

world Updated: Feb 10, 2012 00:10 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Foreign minister SM Krishna flew out of Beijing on Thursday morning after a day of low-key but important meetings through Wednesday with some among the Chinese leaders and diplomats who have a say in the country's foreign policy and strategic thinking.

The visit went nearly unnoticed in the local media and the focus in Thursday's Chinese newspapers was more on the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

But what did not go unnoticed, at least to the visiting Indian diplomats, was the convivial atmosphere in which the talks were held.

Not that there were any dearth of sticky issues in the exchanges. Like the recent and spreading unrest in the Sichuan province, adjoining the Tibetan Autonomous Region. That the issue was sensitive was apparent from the strongly-worded statement issued by the government late on Wednesday.

Quoting Zhou Yongkang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party (CPC), the statement said: "Zhou said the Tibetan issue concerns the core interest of China. The Chinese Government firmly penalizes according to law the separatist activities of the so-called "pro-Tibet Independence", and safeguards the territorial integrity. China appreciates the firm support of the Indian government over this issue."

The statement assumed more significance as it later quoted Krishna having said that "Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, and the Indian government does not allow any force to use the Indian soil to carry out any anti-China activities."

The Chinese government had blamed the Dharamshala-based Tibetan Youth Congress for fomenting unrest in the region.

Krishna's visit coincided with what Tibetan activists observed on February 8 as a world vigil day. There were unconfirmed reports of another Tibetan self-immolating himself in Sichuan on Wednesday.

Krishna's visit was also seen as leading up to President Hu Jintao's visit to New Delhi in March to participate in the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) summit.

The volume of trade between the two countries was discussed which is currently at $74 billion annually and the aim is to take it to the $100 billion mark by 2015.

Krishna's visit might have been low-key but Indian diplomats visiting with him said the exchanges were exceptionally "warm and friendly".

"There's been a change of atmosphere. There was warmth from both sides. The message: we should be friends," an Indian diplomat said.

Both countries in principle have decided to designate 2012 as the year of India-China friendship. It remains to be seen whether the commitment to friendship can outweigh decades of mistrust and suspicion.