Patil to meet China's Hu Jintao

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Beijing, May 27 (ANI): Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil will begin her official six-day visit to China with a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

The meeting between the heads of state of two Asian powers is being seen as a crucial step towards improving bilateral ties that soured last year over border tensions. There has been a slight thaw following a meeting of minds at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate summit.

While Chinese experts and observers are not expecting substantive progress on policy issues that continue to challenge the relationship, their Indian counterparts are cautiously optimistic that existing differences will be ironed out during the visit.

The differences apart from the border dispute, range from India's objections to Chinese projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Chinese concerns over their telecom companies in India.

However, it must be understood that presidential visits usually do not address specific bilateral issues.

The visit, the first by an Indian President in almost a decade, is expected to be important insofar as improving the atmosphere between the two countries, claimed Chinese academics.

The official China Daily newspaper on Wednesday said in a lead editorial that the visit could help address the "lack of trust and mutual understanding" between the countries, which it described as "the major reason" behind the "irritants" in the relationship.

President Patil arrived in Beijing to a red carpet welcome on Wednesday afternoon. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister, Hu Zhengyue and Indian Ambassador to China, S Jaishankar, warmly welcomed Patil at the Beijing International Airport.

During the visit she will meet the top Chinese leadership and sign a number of agreements.

Earlier, during an interaction with the Indian media accompanying her on the visit, Patil said that she hoped to use her visit to take the relationship with China forward in a progressive and mutually beneficial manner.

She also indicated that she would be taking up the issue of India's place in the UN Security Council with President Hu Jintao.

Currently, China does not support India's bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and even tried to resist the 2005 Indo-US nuclear deal before finally giving in.

"We hope it will be considered," Patil said.

India's objections to China issuing stapled visas to resident Kashmiris and its move to strengthen its military infrastructure in Tibet, besides aggressively renewing its claim on Arunachal Pradesh are other issues that could be taken up at Thursday's meetings.

Patil said that there is space for both countries to grow together despite the differences.

During her visit, Patil will also meet the Chairman of the National People's Congress Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao to discuss ways and means to expand the bilateral ties.

Political dialogue, cultural diplomacy and economic cooperation will be three crucial components of the visit, which the two countries pledged to utilise to deepen and expand their strategic cooperation.

Besides Beijing, Patil will travel to Loyang in central China, where she will inaugurate the famous White Horse Buddhist temple, and Shanghai where she will visit India and China Pavilions at the Shanghai Expo 2010 and address members of India-China business forum.

China yesterday said the two countries would use the opportunity to deepen their bilateral understanding and cooperation to upgrade the Sino-India relations to a higher level.

"We welcome President Patil's visit to China," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said Wednesday. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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