Indian PM kicks off maiden trip

By Jiao Xiaoyang (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-01-14 06:57

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday started his first official visit to China by extending his "very best wishes" for the success of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Beijing Vice-Mayor Chen Gang describes the progress made in the construction of Olympic venues to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (C) and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath (R) at the Olympic Project Exhibition Center Sunday. [China Daily]

Hours after landing in the chilly morning, the 76-year-old leader visited Beijing's Olympic Project Exhibition Center, beside the iconic Bird's Nest, which displays models of the main sports venues in the Olympic Village.

After about half an hour's tour in the center accompanied by Chen Gang, vice-mayor of Beijing, Singh said he was impressed by the "inspiration and talent" of the Chinese.

"I congratulate the people of China on the remarkable progress they have made in preparing for the Olympics in August," said Singh, wearing a blue turban and clad in a gray overcoat.

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"My very best wishes to the people of China, particularly the sportsmen and sportswomen, for the success of the Olympics," he said.

He said that Beijing's preparations for the Games are a source of inspiration for India, which will host the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The infrastructure and other work Beijing has done for the Olympics merit attention from the Indian people while preparing for big events like the Commonwealth Games, he added.

After the visit, Singh wrote in the guestbook: "On behalf of the government and people of India, I extend my best wishes for the success of the Olympic Games in Beijing. I hope that the Olympic spirit and the warmth of the great city of Beijing will promote friendship, peace and understanding among all the participants and the countries they represent."

Hu Yisha, a guide at the center who accompanied Singh's entourage, said the Indian prime minister looked and listened attentively.

"For example, when Vice-Mayor Chen said it would be a big problem to maintain the sports venues after the Games in such a populous city, Singh seemed to readily acknowledge that," said Hu.

The trip to the Olympic center was yesterday's only public activity for Singh, who is accompanied by more than 50 journalists and about 40 high-level business leaders on his visit, during which he hopes to impart "substantive content" between the world's two most populous countries.

Premier Wen Jiabao hosted a private dinner for Singh at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse last night.

The two leaders will hold formal talks today and also attend the foundation ceremony of a China-India joint medical team.

Singh will deliver a speech, to be broadcast live, at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences tomorrow morning, and meet with President Hu Jintao and top legislator Wu Bangguo in the afternoon.

The two countries are expected to sign agreements in fields as diverse as land management, housing, traditional medicine, railways and geosciences during the visit.

In an interview to Xinhua before the trip, Singh said he came to China "with a view to shaping a relationship that befits our two countries and our future generations".

Analysts believe Singh's visit can be a pivot on which the dragon and the elephant will dance more closely on the global arena.

"India-China relations have today transcended their bilateral dimension and have acquired global and strategic significance," Singh told Xinhua.

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