External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday called on Chinese President Xi Jinping, who expressed full confidence in India-China relations, hoping that “new progress” would be made in the new year.
“I have full confidence in India-China relations and I believe that new progress will be achieved in growing this bilateral relationship in this new year,” Xi told Swaraj, who called on him on her maiden visit to the communist nation after assuming charge last year.
Xi said China and India have taken “solid steps” to make new progress in bilateral ties besides implementing the agreements reached between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said that since his visit to India in September last year, relations between the two countries have entered a new stage of growth.
“The positive side of India-China relations has been growing, momentum of our cooperation has been strengthening and solid steps are being taken to implement agreements reached between Prime Minister Modi and I,” he said.
One such solid step taken was yesterday’s exchange of notes on modalities for opening the second route for the Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim by June, that will allow more Indians to undertake the pilgrimage.
Recalling fond memories of his India visit, Xi told Swaraj: “Last September I visited India and cherish fresh memories about the gracious hospitality extended to me by government and people of India. In particular, I cherish the memories of Prime Minister Modi’s home province Gujarat and Prime Minister himself accompanied me on that trip.”
The 61-year-old Chinese President, who is also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party, conveyed his best wishes to the Indian leadership. “Please convey my best regards and greetings to President (Pranab) Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi when you go back,” Xi said in a rare meeting with a visiting Foreign Minister.
Reciprocating Xi’s warm words, Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi has sent his greetings and best wishes for the Chinese Lunar Year of Sheep, which commences on February 19.
“Prime Minister Modi has extended his very best greetings for the Chinese Lunar Year of Sheep, which I have been told is associated with creativity and innovation… Your visit to India was also associated with creativity and innovation based on which the two countries explored new ways forward,” she said.
Swaraj, who is on a four-day visit here, held marathon talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Sunday on key issues and emphasised that maintenance of peace and tranquillity at the border was a pre-requisite for the development of ties.
It was also announced that Prime Minister Modi would embark on an “outcome-driven” maiden visit to China before May 26, when his party completes one year in office. Modi has had three successful meetings with Xi, the most important being during the latter’s visit to India in September last year.
Xi is expected to take him to Xian, capital of his home province Shaanxi, to recreate the bonhomie generated by Modi who had taken the Chinese President to Ahmedabad, the capital of his home state Gujarat.