Xi Jinping extends invite to PM to visit China

Shishir Gupta

New Delhi, March 30 -- India and China will exchange high-level political visits this year, with President Xi Jinping inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for an official visit to Beijing on the sidelines of the concluded BRICS summit at Durban.

Xi's invite followed Premier Li Keqiang's request to PM over telephone on March 17 even as New Delhi is looking at a June-July window for Mamohan Singh to travel to Bejing.

Top government sources said the rise of China, slow US economic recovery and its exit from the Af-Pak region in 2014 are significant factors which are pushing both New Delhi and Beijing to maintain a high degree of engagement.

Apart from the 45-minute official meeting between the two leaders last Wednesday, President Xi and PM Singh utilised other opportunities during the BRICS summit to exchange notes with each other.

Besides efforts being made to avoid eyeball to eyeball contact between the two armies on the Line of Actual Control, President Xi expressed his willingness to consider PM Singh's joint mechanism proposal on building "run of river" dams on Brahmaputra River in Tibet.

"The proposed mechanism does not give India any veto over China building dams on Brahmaputra. All the mechanism will ensure is that Beijing shares information with New Delhi on the proposed dams for impact assessment," said a senior official.

Although China under Xi has made overtures to India for improving bilateral ties, New Delhi feels that Beijing's face-off with Tokyo over the Senkaku disputed islands and friction in South and East China Sea with other ASEAN powers are driving this new rapprochement.

If Chinese PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Qi Jianguo's meeting with defence minister AK Antony on March 22 is any indication, then Beijing wants to deepen defence cooperation in order to avoid any accident on the borders.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.