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A PM with peace message

Vajpayee arrived on Sunday in China on a six-day visit, the first by an Indian PM in a decade, writes Vir Sanghvi from Beijing.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2003 19:36 IST

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived on Sunday in Beijing at the start of a six-day visit, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in a decade.

In a statement issued in Delhi before he boarded the flight to Beijing, Vajpayee said, “We attach high priority to our relations with this important neighbour” and added, “I believe that my discussions with the new Chinese leaders would help in building better understanding and trust.”

Vajpayee is due to have talks with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Monday morning followed by full delegation-level talks. On Monday evening, the Chinese Prime Minister will host a banquet for Vajpayee.

Though Vajpayee has a packed schedule in China — he visits the historically important city of Luoyang on Wednesday before moving on to Shanghai — Indian officials accompanying the Prime Minister are wary of over-hyping the visit.

“We see the visit as a part of an ongoing process, not as an event in itself,” a senior member of Vajpayee’s delegation said. The agenda for this trip is largely economic — there are substantial contingents from trade and industry chambers in attendance — and nobody expects any breakthroughs either on the border dispute or on the complex issue of China’s close political links with Pakistan.

The Indian delegation is treating the trip as a chance to get to know the new Chinese leadership and is optimistic, after the success of Defence Minister George Fernandes’s recent visit, of building equations with China’s current leaders.

“We were due to visit China last year but delayed the trip because we wanted to come after the new leadership had taken over,” a key Vajpayee aide said.

Asian giants face to face

I am confident (my) visit will have a positive outcome. My message to China is that of friendship –Atal Bihari Vajpayee

We are ready to join India in closer coordination throughout the new round of WTO negotiations –Wen Jiabao

Indian Expectations

• Visit will promote understanding and trust

• Some advance on border issue. But immediate solution not on cards

• No end to the nagging worry over Sino-Pakistani proximity

Chinese Hopes

• More co-ordination on multilateral trade, especially in WTO

• Greater engagement in bilateral economic issues

First Published: Jun 23, 2003 00:00 IST