External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna began his China visit here on a cold Wednesday morning with a meeting with Communist Party of China (CPC) Polit Bureau member Zhou Yongkang at Beijing’s famous Great Hall of the People.

Mr. Zhou, China’s ninth-highest ranked politician and the security czar, told Mr. Krishna at the start of the talks that bilateral relations, as well as regional cooperation between the countries “had made new progress since the beginning of the 21st century”.

“I think it's fair to say that with the full commitment of leaders of both countries we have traditionally enjoyed a good relationship,” he said, adding that he was satisfied with progress in ties.

Mr. Krishna will on Wednesday evening inaugurate India’s new embassy building in Beijing. Mr. Zhou described the opening of the new building as “an auspicious event in the year of the dragon”. China celebrated the start of the new dragon year on January 23.

He said he was “deeply impressed” by his visit to India in November 2010. “During my meetings with Prime Minister Singh and Sonia Gandhi we agreed that there is enough opportunities and space for development of the 2.5 billion people of China and India combined,” he said.

Mr. Krishna said in introductory remarks the new year had “already been positive” for the bilateral relationship, with his trip to Beijing preceded by last month’s visit of Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, who is the special representative on the boundary negotiations, to New Delhi.

Mr. Krishna and Mr. Zhou then began hour-long talks, following which the minister will hold a lunch-time meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. Syria, over which India and China expressed opposing views on the recent United Nations Security Council vote, Iran and Afghanistan are likely to figure in Mr. Krishna’s lunch-time talks with Mr. Yang, besides the bilateral relationship.