New Delhi, Aug 7: Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi along with his mother, and the party"s President and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi left for Beijing early on Thursday, Aug 7 morning to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Olympics 2008 on Friday, Aug 8.
The Congress and the Communist Party of China (CPC) are set to institutionalise their relationship during her three-day visit to Beijing from Thursday, Aug 7. Priyanka Gandhi, her husband Robert Vadra and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma have also accompanied the Congress chief to Beijing.
Sonia and her family members have been invited by the CPC leadership to attend the inaugural ceremony of Beijing Olympics, a gesture that demonstrates the significance that China accords to her. About 1.6 lakh people are expected to attend the gala opening ceremony, which is billed as one of the greatest shows on the Earth.
This is Sonia"s second visit to China within a year.
During her stay in Beijing, Sonia Gandhi will meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jin Ping, who is likely to succeed President Hu Jintao, and discuss bilateral ties that will add a new dimension to the Sino-India relationship. The two leaders will also discuss ways to boost party-to-party ties during their meeting in the Great Hall of People. An MoU is expected to be signed by them for institutionalised relationship between the two parties.
Both Sonia and Rahul will also attend a banquet to be hosted by President Hu Jintao on Thursday, Aug 7. They will be among 80 heads of state and government, including US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nikolas Sarkozy.
Earlier, the duo had visited China last October soon after the CPC Congress and held wide-ranging discussions with top Chinese leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabao. This was followed by a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Beijing in January this year.
Thereafter, on Thursday, July 24 Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan had called on the Congress President at her 10, Janpath residence and handed over a formal invitation from the CPC.
The Chinese Government had also appreciated the manner in which India had facilitated the Olympic torch relay in New Delhi earlier this year and had forestalled any protests by exiled Tibetan here.