Pranab Mukherjee undertakes first presidential visit to China

Prez-China-Visit The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, arrioving at Guangzhou, The People’s Republic of China on Tuesday | Samar Mondol & Sourav Karmakar

At a time when India’s relations with China has hit a new low, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday undertook a four day tour to China. The presidential visit is expected to smoothen the relationship that has run into rough weather after China encouraged Pakistan to stake claim to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, clearly an attempt to scuttle India’s long-standing claim for a membership in the prestigious club.

The President was warmly received at the Guangzhou airport by the vice governor of Guangdong, He Zhongyou, in the evening and later the president addressed the Indian community at the Shangri La hotel in Guangzhou. This is the first presidential visit to China after president Pratibha Patil visited the country in 2010. In a short interaction with the media on board Air India 1, the president recalled his two earlier visits to China, one as foreign minister and the other when he was deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. That the visit starts with Guangzhou is in itself significant. The port city has the largest Indian population in China, and many Indians visit here for business.

The President leaves for Beijing on Wednesday after attending the plenary session of the business forum and after meeting Gunagdong party secretary Hu Chunhua.

The President’s entourage comprises Union Textiles minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, former minister and MP K.C. Venugopal, MPs Bhushan Lal Jangde, Sudheer Gupta, Ranjanben Dhananjay Bhatt and Foreign Secretary Dr S. Jaishankar.

At his meeting with the Indian diaspora in Shangri La hotel, the president stressed on the relationship between the peoples of China and India. “There are 45,000 Indians in China, 16,000 of them students pursuing higher education,” he said. "You are the unofficial ambassadors of our country.”

Since 1990, there have been phenomenal developments in Sino Indian ties, he said. “If the 2.6 billion people of the two countries work together, sharing the best practices, there will be peace and prosperity and it will be an onward march. The world is too close today. And India and China are the biggest consumers of the internet and mobiles”

India, he said, was a founding member of the WTO when it was founded in 1991. “We welcomed China’s entry into the WTO. How can we have a WTO without China? India and China are the most advanced emerging economies in the world.” In the background of China’s effort to block India’s entry in the Un Security council, the President’s words come as a passionate appeal to work together for greater common good.

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