Monday, June 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PM’s China visit to improve ties
Pact on visa regime in offing
Ramesh Arora

Beijing, June 22
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived here today on a six-day official visit to China, which is expected to strengthen relations between the two countries in economy, culture, education and science and technology, besides imparting an impetus to the ongoing negotiations on the border question.

On board the Prime Minister’s aircraft, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha told reporters that Mr Vajpayee’s tour of China “will be extremely successful”. In the comprehensive relationship that India and China had, Mr Sinha said, no single issue could be important to the exclusion of all others.

The boundary question, he added, was being tackled since 1988 in accordance with a process agreed upon by the two sides.

During the 1996 visit of then President Jiang Zemin, the two countries agreed upon confidence-building measures along the borders, which laid the ground work for improvement of bilateral relations, Mr Sinha recalled.

The process should go on, he added.

The Prime Minister was received at the Beijing airport by Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Menon and his Chinese counterpart Hua Juntuo and a number of other senior officials.

During his visit, first by an Indian Prime Minister in more than a decade, Mr Vajpayee will virtually meet the entire Chinese leadership which assumed office in March last year.

He will hold talks with President Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao and Central Military Commission Chairman and former President Jiang during his three-day stay in Beijing.

Mr Vajpayee will also meet Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and National Peoples’ Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo.

The Prime Minister is also accompanied by Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal while IT and Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie and Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley are due to join the Indian delegation tomorrow.

During Mr Vajpayee’s China visit, at least half-a-dozen agreements are expected to be signed between the two countries, including an important pact on visa regime to facilitate greater movement of people to either country.

Mr Vajpayee will be given a ceremonial welcome tomorrow at the Great Hall of the People at the Tiananmen Square.

The Prime Minister will inaugurate a Centre for India Studies in the Beijing University tomorrow and also address a FICCI seminar on Sino-Indian economic cooperation and development.

The Chinese Premier will host a banquet in Mr Vajpayee’s honour on Wednesday before he leaves for the ancient Buddhist city of Luoyang, which has historical links with India. — UNI


India awaits US-Pak talks outcome: PM

New Delhi, June 22
Voicing concern over continuing cross-border terrorism, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said that India would await the outcome of talks to be held between Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf and US President George W. Bush at Camp David on June 24.

“Our concerns are on cross-border terrorism which should stop. Our friends (in the international community) have agreed with us on this score,” Mr Vajpayee told reporters at the airport shortly before emplaning for a six-day visit to China.

Asked about his expectations from the Musharraf-Bush talks, he said, “Let us see what emerges out of it and what measures follow.”

To a question on China’s close ties with Pakistan, the Prime Minister said that he had talked with Chinese President Hu Jintao in St Petersburg in Russia recently and he was looking forward to holding wide-ranging discussions with top Chinese leadership, including his counterpart Wen Jiabao.

Declaring that India accorded “top priority” to its ties with China, Mr Vajpayee said that his government wanted to tackle the new challenges and move on the road to progress in co-operation with Beijing.

“I am confident that the visit would have a positive outcome. My message to China is that of friendship”, Mr Vajpayee, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit China in last 10 years, said.

On the vexed boundary dispute, Mr Vajpayee said, “Talks have been taking place with China on this issue and we want to take them forward.”

Mr Vajpayee, who had visited China as Foreign Minister in 1979 and later as a member of a Parliamentary delegation in 1993, said the world’s two largest and most populist developing countries, India and China needed to remain in close touch on all major issues of global concern.

Recalling his “very useful” meeting with President Hu three weeks back in St Petersburg, he said, “My visit will give me an opportunity of also establishing contact with Premier Wen Jiabao and other representatives of the new Chinese leadership”.

Mr Vajpayee said he believed that his discussions with the new Chinese leadership would help in building better understanding and trust between the two sides.

Besides Beijing, he will visit the industrial and commercial centre of Shanghai and the town of Luoyang which has an ancient historical connection with India.

Mr Vajpayee, who left for Beijing in a special Air India flight, was seen off at the airport by his Deputy L.K. Advani, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and several other ministers besides top civil and military officials. — PTI 

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