President Mukherjee arrives Tuesday on maiden China visit
By Gaurav Sharma
Beijing, May 23 (IANS) Keeping up the tempo of high-level visits, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is to begin his four-day China visit on Tuesday from Guangzhou — a heavily industrialised city in south China which has strong trade links with India.
Mukherjee, who had visited the capital city of Guangdong province in 2009 as then foreign minister, will meet Indian and Chinese businessmen at an event. It is Mukherjee’s maiden visit to China as President.
Located along the Pearl river, Guangzhou has some 5,000 Indians who are primarily into business. The city has various industries such as ship building, textile, and chemical among others.
Mukherjee is likely to touch upon the bilateral trade ties, since the balance of trade is heavily slanted in China’s favour.
Close to Hong Kong and Macau, Guangzhou was one of the first cities to exploit China’s opening up to the outside world in 1978. In the following 25 years, the city has maintained an average of 14 percent economic growth.
Guangzhou has British-era buildings that stand testimony to the city being captured in the Opium War.
“It’s good that our president is visiting. I hope that his visit makes the atmosphere more conducive for Indian businessmen,” Rajesh Shahani, who has been living in Guangzhou for the past 16 years, told IANS.
Shahani will attend a function to welcome Mukherjee.
“I cannot say much about the visit, but expect good results after the visit. There is not much help from Indian authorities, let alone Chinese,” another Indian businessman, Shivan Kushwaha, told IANS, recalling the “harrowing” experience of getting “no help” from the Indian embassy when he lost his passport.
The President arrives in Beijing on May 25 where he is slated to attend a reception hosted by Chinese People’s Friendship Association of Foreign Countries.
Mukherjee will also visit Peking University which recently ranked 21 in the world’s 100 varsities. He is to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on May 26.
This is the first visit by an Indian President since 2010 when Mukherjee’s predecessor Pratibha Patil came on a visit.
The visit comes days after Beijing blocked India’s bid at the UN to designate Pathankot terror attacks mastermind, Masood Azhar, as terrorist. In a move seen as retaliatory, New Delhi issued visa to Chinese dissident Dolkun Isa, an Uighyur, for an international meet on democracy in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, only to retract the invitation later.
China has also not backed India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a move that has worried New Delhi.
These issues are likely to figure in talks with the Chinese leadership.
Mukherjee leaves for New Delhi on May 27.
In June 2014, Vice-President Hamid Ansari visited China, while President Xi was in India in September that year. In May 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to China, while Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao visited India in November last year.
Modi is to visit Hangzhou for the G20 summit in September while Xi will be in Goa for the BRICS summit that India is hosting in mid-October.
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was in Beijing in April this year.