‘Lasting impact’ of India trip 27 years ago one reason why he is visiting India first, says Chinese Premier

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who will leave for India on Sunday, revealed to a visiting Indian delegation that a trip he made to India some 27 years ago as a Communist Youth League leader left such a “lasting impact” that it had influenced his decision to make New Delhi the destination of his first overseas visit.

“What I saw and felt in that trip, such as the Taj Mahal and prestigious Indian universities and research institutes, and especially, the warmth and hospitality of the Indian people, left a lasting impact on me,” Mr. Li told a 100-member youth delegation from India here on Wednesday evening.

“In a few days’ time,” he said, “I will make India the first stop of my first overseas visit as the Premier of China. I made this decision not just because India is an important neighbour, and one of the most populous countries in the world, but also because of the seeds of friendship sown during my own youth.”

Mr. Li, who took over as Premier in March and is the second-ranked leader behind President Xi Jinping, hosted the delegation in the central leadership compound, Zhongnanhai.

He told the delegation it was his “great pleasure” to meet young people from India before he embarked on his visit, which will see him spending three days in New Delhi and Mumbai. He will subsequently travel to Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland.

Mr. Li told the students about the special affinity he had with India, because of the time he spent there when he was 30 years old. At that time, he was the Secretary of the Communist Youth League (CYL). Subsequently, he became aprotégé of the former President, Hu Jintao, who was also with the CYL at the same time and later established his power base there. Mr. Li also spent time in Japan as a CYL member.

He told the delegation that India and China “must shake hands … so that together we can raise the standing of Asia in the world.”

“China and India are friendly neighbours,” he said. “We are also natural partners. Both of our countries stand for amicable and peaceful relations between countries and a multipolar world. The peaceful and friendly relations between our two countries is a blessing not just to Asia, but to also the whole world.”

“The linkage of our two vast markets,” he said, “will bring tangible benefits to people in both countries.” “Our two countries,” he continued, “have a proud historical tradition of cultural interflows and now the conditions are even better for us to learn from each other culturally.”

The youth delegation, comprising young politicians and students from major universities, particularly with a background in technology-related courses, is on a nine-day visit to China. It will travel to Wuhan, in central Hubei province, and visit universities and agriculture-related facilities, before proceeding on to visit high-tech industries in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Second such exchange

The visit, part of a regular programme to exchange youth delegations, is being coordinated by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The previous visit to China, in July last year, was shrouded in some controversy after one delegate from Arunachal Pradesh, who was included in the group, had to drop out on account of China’s long standing policy to not issue visas to residents from the State, which China claims is part of its territory.

And, on arrival in Beijing last year, several women members of the delegation complained of inappropriate behaviour by some of the male delegates, both towards members of the group and to Chinese translators.

Controversy averted

This time around, the members have been instructed to behave appropriately and be respectful towards their hosts. Any visa controversy has also been averted, sources said, with both sides keen for the trip to go smoothly, particularly with Mr. Li’s visit to India set to commence at the end of the week.

The Chinese side, according to sources, issued regular visas to delegates from Jammu and Kashmir — unlike stapled visas issued to past delegations — while the Indian side decided to not include a representative from Arunachal Pradesh, considering China’s visa policies and sensitivities towards the State.

More In: International | News | World