China on Monday announced that its Premier Li Keqiang will leave for India on May 19 on his much-anticipated first overseas visit — a four-nation, nine-day tour that will see the second-ranked Chinese leader travel also to Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany.
New Delhi will be the first stop, with the Premier telling Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during talks here last week that the new government in Beijing had decided to make India his first port of call after “careful thought,” to reflect the leadership’s intent to boost strategic ties.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Mr. Khurshid’s two-day visit to Beijing last week, which was primarily focused on laying the groundwork for Mr. Li’s trip, had seen both sides “stress the need to maintain the momentum of sound development of bilateral relations.”
Both countries had taken the decision to “deepen political mutual trust” as well as expand trade, people-to-people exchanges and coordination in international affairs “such as the United Nations and jointly promoting the interests of developing countries,” spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters.
India and China, he said, had discussed the recent stand-off in Ladakh during Mr. Khurshid’s visit, with both sides expressing the belief that “the proper settlement of the incident once again demonstrates that the two countries bear in mind the larger interests of bilateral relations.”
During his visit to India next week, before travelling to Mumbai, Mr. Li will “meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders and exchange views on China-India relations, and particularly how to deepen the China-India strategic partnership,” Mr. Hong said.
“We believe this visit by Premier Li to India will further push forward the strategic partnership of cooperation for common development and prosperity,” he added.
Mr. Li will, on Wednesday, host an Indian youth delegation in the central leadership compound, Zhongnanhai, where the top Chinese leadership usually hosts visiting heads of State. The 100-member delegation is in China under an initiative to boost youth exchanges.
Officials from both sides are currently holding consultations to finalise a slew of agreements expected to be announced next week. Among 16 agreements that the Chinese side has proposed, is a border defence cooperation agreement, a draft of which was sent to India on May 4. Indian officials are currently studying the agreement, Mr. Khurshid said here last week, with consultations held here on Friday and Saturday on boundary-related issues.
Following his visit to New Delhi on May 19 and a subsequent stop in Mumbai, Mr. Li will travel to Pakistan, in keeping with the established practice of Chinese leaders usually following up a trip to India with a visit to China’s long-time “all-weather” ally. He will subsequently travel to Germany and Switzerland, completing his first overseas tour after he took over in March as the second-ranked leader behind President and Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping.
Mr. Hong said on Monday that China was “happy to see the smooth completion of the election in Pakistan.”
Noting the “good results” attained by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), he said: “China welcomes this, and expresses congratulations.”
“As an all-weather partner,” he added, “China will continue to firmly support Pakistan’s efforts to maintain stability and seek development. We are convinced that with joint efforts, the China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership will be lifted to a new level.”