Pranab leaves for China tomorrow

New Delhi: In continuation of high-level engagements, President Pranab Mukherjee sets off on a four-day visit to China tomorrow with an aim to further broaden ties between the two Asian economic giants as he will deliberate on a range of key issues including the contentious ones with the Chinese leadership.

Mukherjee is likely to raise the issues of China blocking India’s bid to get a UN ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar and its stand that New Delhi must sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to get membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The lingering boundary issue may also figure in talks.

The President will be meeting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Premier Le Keqiang and other top leaders.

This will be the first visit of Mukherjee to China as President though he had visited the country a number of times in different capacities. The last Presidential visit to China was by Pratibha Patil in 2010.

Ties between the two countries have been on an upswing since Xi’s landmark India visit in September, 2014 during which both countries had signed 12 agreements and China pledged an investment of USD 20 bn in India’s infrastructure sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited China in May last year during which both sides had resolved to further deepen ties in a range of areas.

However, irritants in ties cropped recently after China blocked India’s move to get a UN ban on JeM chief Azhar and opposed granting India membership of NSG, saying it must sign the NPT to get an entry into the premier group.

Ahead of his visit, Mukherjee said China joining hands with India in the fight against terrorism will have “its own impact”, indicating that the two countries must comer together to deal with the challenge.

The comments came against the backdrop of Beijing blocking India’s bid to put Azhar on the UN list of proscribed terrorists.

Mukherjee will begin his visit by arriving in the highly industrialised Chinese city of Guangzhou tomorrow. The city which has strong business links with India has an economy of over USD 1 trillion.

He will be the first Indian leader to visit Guangzhou where Chan Buddhism originated and later spread to Japan and Korea.

Besides interacting with the Indian community, which has over 3,000 businessmen, Mukherjee will also address India- China Business Forum to highlight the investment opportunities in India.

There, the President will have meetings with the Governor who is also the party secretary and attend a lunch for him in his honour.

On the second leg of the visit, he will travel to Beijing where he will hold wide-ranging talks with the Chinese leadership on key bilateral, regional and global issues.

A key engagement of the President will be a roundtable of Vice Chancellors of Chinese and Indian universities. A number of MoUs will be signed between academic institutions of both the countries.

In Beijing, the President will also be talking to students of Peking university.

Mukherjee will be accompanied by a delegation of academicians including Vice Chancellors of two central universities as well as heads of IIT- Delhi and Bhubaneshwar, IIM, Ahmedabad and NIT Nagpur and Agartala.

Union Minister Santosh Ganwar and four MPs will also accompany the President as part of the delegation.