Li escorts Indian PM on Forbidden City tour

Updated: 2013-10-24 01:14


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Li escorts Indian PM on Forbidden City tour

Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tour the Forbidden City in Beijing on Wednesday, the day China and India signed agreements in fields including border cooperation and the economy. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

In the golden rays of sunset, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh enjoyed a tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Wednesday, hosted by Premier Li Keqiang.

The rare arrangement is the latest signal of Beijing's strong commitment to consolidating ties with India, diplomats and experts said.

Chinese folk music was played for Singh to allow him to better experience Chinese culture, while a museum official showed the pair around the world heritage site.

Some less prominent visitors noticed the two premiers at the entrance, waving and saying hello to them.

"Good afternoon!" Singh said to the crowd and Li loudly translated the greeting into Chinese. Those present responded with enthusiastic cheers and greetings, and Li and Singh walked into the crowd to talk to people.

"How lucky it is to meet the premiers here, two at the same time!" said Gao Jinshan, 60, a tourist from Jilin province.

Yu Haiming, 34, from Liaoning province, said: "I know that is India's prime minister, he is Singh! I've seen him on television."

Asked about his comprehension of China's relations with India, Yu said the ties "are surely very important, as India is a country bordering China".

"We are located so closely to each other and I know we're developing some kind of strategic relationship. For sure, we should have good ties with our neighbor," Yu said.

Li later accompanied Singh around the Forbidden City, from the south to the Imperial Garden in the North. Before the trip, Li highly praised Singh's contribution to the two countries' relationship, at a meeting between the leaders in the morning.

"I would like to take this opportunity to pay high tribute to the enormous economic and social progress made by the Indian government and people over the last decade under the premiership of his Excellency," Li said.

"I would also like to appreciate the high level of attention and the efforts of the Prime Minister to the China-India relationship."

Luo Zhaohui, head of the Asian Affairs Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said after the meeting that the Forbidden City tour was a good opportunity for the two leaders to "witness the review of history and look forward to the future".

"The site is the most concentrated area of Chinese ancient civilizations," Luo said.

The new Chinese government attaches great importance to relationships with neighboring countries, Luo said, citing a traditional Chinese saying: "When the host is cultured, guests come to his house more frequently."

Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said having Li accompany Singh on his tour of the historic site showed the high level of courtesy the Indian leader receives in China.

"It's also a strong signal from the Chinese government that Beijing is willing to enhance the strategic cooperative relationship with India."

Singh has forged a deep connection with Chinese leaders. During his nine years as the prime minister of India, he met then-Chinese president Hu Jintao and then premier Wen Jiabao more than two dozen times.

Li, for his part, chose India as the first stop on his maiden overseas trip after taking office in March. Singh said at Wednesday's press briefing that Li's visit showed the importance the new Chinese leadership attaches to its ties with India.

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