China visit deferred due to 'date' problem, not diplomatic row

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New Delhi, Mar 27 (UNI) Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath today clarified that his visit to China has been postponed and not cancelled as reported for reasons relating to appropriate dates rather than any diplomatic row.

"We have to cancel the trip for the time being. We will seek fresh dates," Mr Nath told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

The Minister made the statement in the context of reports that his visit to Beijing has been put off by India due to resentment over India's Ambassador to China Nirupama Rao being summoned mid night by Chinese Foreign Ministry last Friday to register its protest over a group of Tibetans storming the Chinese Embassy in Delhi.

The minister had earlier released ESCAP's flagship publication relating to economic and social survey of Asia and the Pacific.

"My trip has not been called off because of any diplomatic reasons," he quipped.

The External Affairs Ministry refused to comment on reports in this regard.

The minister was to visit Beijing for the joint Empowered Group meeting on April 2.

The Group is to review progress made on the negotiations for Regional Trade Agreement, which the two neigbours are to put in place. The pact could bring into force a preferential trade agreement between the two neighbouring countries.

"Some dates were fixed, they were changed, again fixed and again changed. My trip has been called of because of my engagement here and because of engagement of the Chinese Minister," Mr Nath said.

He said India's trade with China was robust, adding that New Delhi was expecting to achieving record level of trade with Beijing in the current year. The economic engaegment with China will intensify, he added.

Reports suggested that India's call off was a rebuff to China for the high-handed manner in which it had dealt with the Indian ambassador. The Minister was keen to put to rest such speculation.

UNI PDT GS SR RK1915

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