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No 'Hu' and cry over Chinese Prez visit, US prefers India

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got a state dinner when he visited Washington in 2009 as President Barack Obama's first state guest. Chinese President Hu Jintao is getting one too, but commentators are discussing it as if it was completely unexpected. Yashwant Raj reports.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2011 02:22 IST
Yashwant Raj

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got a state dinner when he came here in 2009 as President Barack Obama's first state guest. Chinese President Hu Jintao is getting one too, but commentators are discussing it as if it was completely unexpected.

This and other comparisons are being drawn between India and China in a triangular relationship with the US, going right up to the White House itself, unsolicited and unprompted.

Shortly before Hu arrived on Tuesday, Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters not to expect deliverables to match those of the India visit.

Even the think tanks seem a little under-enthused. Though papers are being presented and talks are being hosted, the buzz is missing. "The bottom line is that no one expects dramatic breakthroughs with the Hu visit," said Richard Fontaine of the Centre for New American Security. Though corporate deals worth billions are expected to be announced over the next two days, the high-voltage success of Obama's visit to India in November might have raised the bar for visits of this kind.

"This is a little different from our trip to India. The economic relationship that we have with the Chinese is different on a scale with what we do with India," Gibbs told reporters.

When asked about the dinner for Hu, and Obama's policy on state dinners, the White House spokesman brought up India once again: "India enjoys a very personal relationship with the United States."

And a state dinner is not something every visiting foreign leader gets as a matter of right. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for example, who was here earlier this month didn't get a state dinner.

Former US President George W Bush hosted state dinners only for the closest allies of his nation. He didn't host one for Hu when he was here in 2006.

Hu is getting two dinners this time - a private dinner with President Barack Obama and his key officials on Tuesday and a state dinner on Wednesday night, with a semi-state lunch thrown in, being hosted by vice-president Joe Biden.

But comparisons are still being made.

National security advisor Tom Donilon was asked at a White House briefing about the apparent absence of "staff work" that preceded the India visit, which the reporter said "was really a summit".

"It just had a different strategic dynamic to it," Donilon said, adding, "We fully embraced India's rise as a great power and a great partner for the United States."