Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to visit India in May

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit India in May in his first official tour abroad after assuming office two months ago.

New Delhi: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit India in May in his first official tour abroad after assuming office two months ago.
While newly-elected President Xi Jinping made Russia his first stop last month to show the importance Beijing attached to its relations with Moscow, for his part Li would like to begin his foreign tour by visiting India first in the third week of next month.

From Russia, Xi went to Durban to take part in the BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, where he had his first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Proposal for Li`s visit came as a surprise to Indian officials as it is very much unlike the protocol conscious Chinese political set up and it was the turn of Singh to visit Beijing this year to reciprocate the visit of former Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao`s tour to India in December, 2011.

Significantly, a proposal for Singh`s visit to China in later part of June was being considered. But with Li`s visit, Singh`s trip will be pushed to later in the year.

Li`s forthcoming visit here is seen as a positive step in the relations of two countries, which in the recent years look to improve their relations while trying to resolve the vexed boundary dispute.

In the new Chinese Communist party leadership standing, 57-year-old Li holds the rank of number two unlike Wen, who despite being Premier was ranked number three, next to former President Hu Jintao and ex- Chairman of the National People?s Congress, (NPC), Wu Bangguo.

Li has already spoken to Singh after taking over office keeping up with the diplomatic protocol of keeping the dialogue between the Prime Ministers.

Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar is already in Delhi and officials from both countries are working to lay the groundwork for the visit of Li.

A visit by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to China may also take place ahead of Li`s visit. However, the sources said no dates have been finalised so far.

Meanwhile, India and China last week also concluded two-
day consultations on counter-terrorism. They will also be holding first-ever consultations on Afghanistan later this week in Beijing for which Additional Secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran Yash Sinha will be travelling to the Chinese capital.

The two countries are also currently working on the dates for the visit of Defence Minister A K Antony to China besides the resumption of joint military exercises between the two countries.

The exercises were stalled in 2009 due to differences over China`s decision not to grant visa to a top Indian General on the ground that he headed troops in Jammu and Kashmir division, which Beijing considered disputed territory.

The differences were subsequently resolved after China rolled back its policy and started granting regular visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, instead of stapled visas.

Also there was a proposal of National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to visit Beijing for talks with Yang, the former Foreign Minister, who succeeded Dai Bingguo as State Councillor, which in Chinese system was a higher post than Foreign Minister.

Yang is expected to be designated as China`s Special Representative on boundary talks.

During the dialogue on Afghanistan, the two sides will discuss the emerging situation in the war-torn country where the two countries are seeking a common ground for the first time to deal with US plans to pull out its troops from Afghanistan next year.

The issue has already discussed by Menon during NSA`s meeting of China, India, Russia in Moscow recently followed by counter terrorism dialogue on April 11-12 headed by Additional Secretary of the MEA Navtej Sarna.

This is first time again, China is trying to look for convergence with India on Afghanistan besides holding contacts with its all weather ally Pakistan.