Engages with China, exudes cordiality

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Within a week of taking over prime minister Narendra Modi is on a diplomatic offensive. Having hosted seven top leaders from Saarc and Mauritius, he has now warmed up to extend his engagement with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Prime minister Modi has extended a formal invitation to Xi on Thursday as part of New Delhi’s efforts to engage with Beijing on expanding economic and trade relations.

In a telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, Modi extended the invite to president Xi.

While dates for Xi’s visit are yet to be finalised, foreign secretaries of both India and China will work towards hosting him in New Delhi.

Ministry of external affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin confirmed in a tweet about the telephonic conversation between Modi and Li Keqiang on Thursday. An official privy to the development said that Modi’s invitation was not new and Xi Jinping was anyway scheduled to visit India later this year.

“With a change of government prime minister Modi has only re-confirmed India’s invitation earlier extended to the Chinese president by his predecessor Manmohan Singh” this official said.

Importantly, as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had made three successful visits to China, drawing warm accolades from the official Chinese media after his election as prime minister.

The Indian prime minister, according to a PMO news release, underlined the importance New Delhi attaches to ‘strategic and cooperative partnership with China’ to ensure development and prosperity to people from both India and China.

Modi has also emphasised on the enhanced trade and economic engagement with China.

Chinese premier Li had telephoned Modi to congratulate him on assuming charge as prime minister. Li conveyed the Chinese government’s desire to ‘establish a robust partnership with the new government’ in India’. Both premier Li and prime minister Modi, the PMO release said, “…agreed to maintain frequent high-level exchanges and communication”.

This is the first telephonic conversation that Modi has had with head of a foreign government after taking over as prime minister.

Apart from border disputes across the line of actual control (LoAC) in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh and the question of issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, Sino-Indian relations have been in a tricky phase.

Frequent Chinese incursions into Indian territory across the large un-delineated border and setting up of Chinese army camps in Ladakh have also become a major irritant between the two countries.

For Narendra Modi, it was a diplomatic coup of sorts for successfully hosting all six leaders from South Asia, including Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Modi-Xi meeting later this year is being billed as one of largest exchanges between the two Asian giants. Both China and India have been working in tandem at top international forums like G-20 and BRICS.

Signs of exchanges between the two countries appeared to be on the rise. Beginning Friday, India will showcase its services supremacy at a global service fair being held in Beijing. A 60-member strong Indian services industry delegation is participating.

Even as Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, had developed a rapport with Chinese leadership given that a number of businessmen from Gujarat source low-value goods from China.


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