Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) arrived in India yesterday on the first stop of his maiden foreign trip, weeks after a border dispute was rekindled by alleged Chinese troop incursions in a disputed region.
Li was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying that his choice of India as his first destination “indicates the great importance Beijing attaches to its relations” with New Delhi.
Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said exchanges were aimed at “enhancing trust” between the two countries, which fought a brief but a bloody border war in 1962.
“The object of such visits and meetings is to enhance trust and understanding between our two governments and our peoples as well as to exhibit sensitivity to each other’s concerns,” he added.
The Asian giants have held 15 rounds of high-level talks, but the dispute in the Himalayan region of Kashmir remains unresolved.
The row again flared last month after India alleged that Chinese troops intruded nearly 20km into Indian-claimed territory.
The Line of Actual Control between the neighbors is not formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace in the region.
Akbaruddin said Li, heading a large delegation, was to hold a “restricted meeting” later yesterday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, followed by dinner.
Li and Singh will hold formal “delegation-level” talks today which will be followed by some agreements, he added.
Li will also meet other Indian leaders, including from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
The spokesman said India thinks “very highly” of Li’s decision to make the country his first overseas stop since taking charge as premier in March.
After New Delhi, Li will travel tomorrow to Mumbai and then a day later to Pakistan, before moving on to Switzerland and Germany.
The world’s two most populous countries have in recent years seen ties improve and trade boom, and both sides sought to stay low-key over the latest row.
Beijing has said its troops “never trespassed the line.”
Dorjee Tseten, director of Students for a Free Tibet, yesterday said New Delhi police had declined permission for Tibetans to hold a demonstration against Li’s visit.
“Tibetan activists are currently on the run evading imminent police arrest,” he said in a statement, complaining of a heavy police presence in an area where a large number of Tibetans-in-exile live.
Police detained a Tibetan man as he tried to burn a Chinese flag near China’s embassy.
However, police did allow about two dozen members of Shiv Sena, a Hindu right-wing political party, to demonstrate near India’s parliament, where they burned an effigy of the Chinese premier.
“Go back, go back,” the protesters chanted, urging the Indian government to respond toughly to China’s alleged border incursion.