in the Age of Empire
China hails Sonia's 'milestone' visit, for
Beijing, October 26, 2007
on Friday hailed the visit of India's ruling coalition chief Sonia
Gandhi as a "milestone" in the history of Sino-Indian relations,
with President Hu Jintao saying his country attached great
importance to developing friendly ties with New Delhi.
"You are the first foreign political leader to visit China after the
conclusion of 17th National Congress (on October 22 of the ruling
Communist Party of China), which is an indication of importance both
of us have attached to our relations," Hu, who was re-elected
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, told Gandhi at
the Great Hall of the People here.
Hu recalled his visit to India in November last year and said he was
touched by the warm reception given by the Indian government and the
people of India.
Gandhi also met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Zhongnanhai
leadership compound. The meeting was marked by nostalgia and fond
memories. Wen recalled late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's
ground-breaking visit to China in 1988, which led to the process of
normalising relations between the two countries.
"Your work and contribution to the friendship between China and
India is of great importance," Wen, also a member of the powerful
Politburo Standing Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China,
"I still vividly remember when Rajiv Gandhi visited China, you were
with him," he said, adding that Rajiv met top Chinese leaders,
including late Deng Xiaoping.
Wen eloquently described the late Indian leader as an "outstanding
statesman", and lauded his contribution not only to India but to the
strengthening of Sino-Indian relations.
Gandhi was moved by Wen's warm words. "I remember the historic visit
when my husband came here. From then on, the relationship between
the two countries has been growing stronger," she said.
Gandhi, who began her five-day visit to China Thursday, was
enthusiastic about her visit and impressed at the progress made by
the neighbouring country.
Beijing, keen to underscore its desire to improve strategic and
economic ties with New Delhi, was fulsome in praise of Gandhi.
"Your visit has captured the attention of the whole world," Minister
of the International Department of the ruling Communist Party of
China (CPC) Wang Jiarui said at a meeting with her.
Gandhi's visit was a "milestone" not only at the party-to-party
level but also between the two countries, Wang told Gandhi.
Gandhi reciprocated the warm sentiments saying, "this (her trip) is
a milestone in strengthening the relations between the two
"I am amazed and astounded at the progress made by the people of
China and its leadership," said Gandhi, while recalling that
President Hu Jintao had invited her to visit China when he was in
India last November.
Gandhi's visit follows close on the heels of External Affairs
Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was in the Chinese northeast city of
Harbin this week to attend a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers
of India, China and Russia.
Gandhi's visit sets the stage for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's
trip to China, likely in January next year.
The visit is attracting a lot of attention back home as Gandhi's son
and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is accompanying her on
this important visit. Political observers in New Delhi say that
Rahul Gandhi is being groomed for bigger responsibilities in the
ruling Congress party in India.
Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, Minister of
State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan and senior
Congress leader Karan Singh are also part of Gandhi's entourage.
Gandhi's visit is aimed at bridging the lingering trust deficit
between the two rising Asian powers as they expand their economic
and commercial ties and push harder for a solution of the
decades-old border dispute that has hobbled their ties in the past.