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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Shri Narendra Modiji visits China ~ to visit Mongolia and South Korea too...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now in China.  Mr Modi arrived in China early  this morning on a three-day visit. His first stop is the ancient city of Xian, also the hometown of President Xi Jinping.  PM Modi's arrival in Xian is significant and a departure from protocol by the Chinese government. It is being seen as a sign of the importance China is attaching to this visit and a reciprocal gesture after President Xi was hosted by the Indian Prime Minister in his home state of Gujarat last year.

President Xi Jinping has  praised China's warming ties with India during a meeting Thursday between the leaders of Asia's rising powers and rivals, which included a rare touch of personal diplomacy for a Chinese leader. Xi met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a sprawling government guest house in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, from which the president's family hails.  The exchanges highlight warming ties between the two powers — the world's most populous nations with a combined 2.6 billion people — despite their continuing rivalry and contrasting political systems. That trend has gained momentum by the personal authority enjoyed by the two men, who are widely seen as their countries' strongest leaders in years.

6 decades ago, in Oct 1954, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited China, which was described as  the first visit by a non-communist head of state since the creation of the People’s Republic of China. “The six miles between city and airport were walled by unbroken banks of humanity, clapping, cheering and crying the inescapable Chinese slogan, ‘Long live peace’,”  NY Times had reported.  Nehru met chairman Mao Zedong, held talks with the first Chinese premier, Zhou EnLai, and visited Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Guangzhou (Canton). He was accompanied by his daughter, and later also prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi.

When Chinese prime minister Li Peng visited New Delhi in 1991, it was a momentous occasion for the two gigantic, mostly rural, developing countries. Both were adrift and isolated—India struggling in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, and China facing criticism of its human rights record.  From then on,  China has developed into a manufacturing and export-led powerhouse that is slated to become the world’s largest economy.  India, at the same time, became a global outsourcing hotspot, although the benefits of that relatively small industry’s growth have had a much smaller long-term impact, and China’s economy has left India’s far behind.

Ulan Bator doesn’t usually figure on the itinerary of most world leaders,  but Mr Modi—after visiting China, is visiting this place, which has never been visited by an Indian Prime Minister, which is seen as a subtle message for China.    “China has been very active in India’s periphery and India is also looking to play on their periphery. India and Mongolia have also had very friendly relations. Modi will want to convey the message that India has an all-encompassing foreign policy.”

Geographically, Mongolia is at the crossroads of the Far East and North Asia, and China has always been a critically important neighbour.  Mongolia had  supported India during the Bangladesh Liberation war in 1971 and is also a supporter for India’s permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.  The trade of China with Mongolia is high as it accounts for 90% of Mongolian exports, while imports are dominated by China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. Despite that, significant opportunities for India remain. Mongolia, for instance, has massive reserves of uranium, coal, copper and gold.

The relationship between India and modern-day Mongolia was formalised by an Indo-Mongol communique, issued on 24 December 1955. In the process, India became the first country outside the Soviet bloc to establish relations with Mongolia (then called the Mongolian People’s Republic).  The first high-profile visit by a leader from either side was undertaken by India’s former president S. Radhakrishnan (then vice-president) in 1957.  Mr Modi will be in Mongolia on May 17, for the first visit by an Indian prime minister. He will present a sapling of the Bodhi tree to the chief abbot of the Gandan Monastery in Ulan Bator. He will then meet Mongolian Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg for talks during which several agreements are set to be inked.  In a special gesture, the Mongolian parliament will be opened on a holiday (Sunday) for the first time to allow Modi to address lawmakers in Ulan Bator.

Mongolia is marking its 25th anniversary of becoming a democracy and Buddhism is a major point of linkage. Mr Modi then heads to South Korea on May 18 and after his arrival will lay a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Mongolia is a landlocked country in east-central Asia,  bordered by Russia and China.  Ulaanbaatar is its capital and also the largest city.  The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires.  In 1206, Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and his grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan Dynasty.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

14th May 2015.

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