Fri, 30 Nov 2012 12:53:36 GMT

Menon to visit China to start formal contact with new leaders

From K J M Varma
Beijing/New Delhi, Nov 29 (PTI) India''s formal contacts with China''s new leadership would begin when National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon arrives here to hold wide ranging talks with Chinese officials over two days from December 3.

Menon''s visit mainly focuses on bilateral issues during which he will also meet his Chinese counterpart on border talks, Dai Bingguo, who is set to retire next March.

More importantly, the top Indian official would also be meeting Vice Premier, Li Keqiang, the new number two leader who is set to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao.

Menon''s itinerary is still under finalisation, but he could be the first foreign dignitary in town to interact with the new Chinese leaders.

His meeting with Li, 57 is expected to set off the pattern of close contacts between the top leadership after a change in the CPC leadership here, according to Chinese officials.

It appears unlikely that Menon may meet Xi as the new leader is to begin interactions with foreign dignitaries only after taking over as President in March when Hu steps down.

Xi succeeded Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party and Chief of Military but the outgoing President still remains the Head of State, officials say.

Chinese officials say that the enthusiasm which China has displayed in stepping up cooperation with India at the just concluded high-profile Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED), after the election of a new leadership, points to continuity and Beijing''s interest in stepping up ties with its big neighbour.

The same message was conveyed to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh during his meeting with Wen on the sidelines of recent ASEAN summit in Cambodia.

The outgoing leader Hu and Wen met the Indian leadership many times in various multilateral fora during the last decade and the new leaders were expected to do the same, a Chinese official said. .

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