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Indian PM Starts Landmark Visit to China
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived in Beijing Sunday, starting a six-day official visit to China at the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao.

It is the first visit to China by an Indian Prime Minister in nearly a decade.

Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed Vajpayee, who was followed by Indian senior officials, 40 entrepreneurs and 60 journalists, at the airport.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry sources, Chinese leaders will meet with Vajpayee and the Indian prime minister will give two speeches during the visit.

A series of documents are expected to be signed during the visit.

In New Delhi, Vajpayee said on Friday he hopes his discussions with the Chinese leadership will build better understanding and trust between the people of the two countries, and give an extra push to bilateral cooperation.

He made the remarks in an interview with Xinhua before his visit to China.

"My visit to China is the first by an Indian prime minister in nearly a decade. In this period, our two countries have developed a wide canvas of mutually beneficial cooperation," Vajpayee said.

"The world around us has also changed dramatically during these years. As two of the world's largest and most populous developing countries, India and China should remain in close touch on global issues of concern to developing countries."

Vajpayee also noted that Indian and China jointly defined the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence about 50 years ago as the basis of relations between sovereign, independent countries.

The Indian leader said he looks forward to the opportunity to see for himself the rapid economic development China has achieved in the last two decades.

On Sino-Indian relations, he said, "In recent years, our two countries have launched a process of diversification of bilateral relations," Vajpayee said.

"We have successfully developed mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation, while simultaneously addressing our differences."

On economic ties between the two countries, he said, "India and China are among the world's fastest growing economies. The basic structure of our economies is not dissimilar, though we have chosen different paths towards development."

Vajpayee said India and China complemented each other because of their shared technological development and human resources skills.

He said: "Our trade is growing rapidly. It nearly touched US$5 billion last year and, at the rate at which it is growing, can easily reach US$10 billion in the next couple of years."

"Of course, we have to constantly strive to increase the proportion of 'new economy' products in our turnover, compared to the traditional items."

Vajpayee said, "Indian companies are showing interest in investing in China. About 70 Indian companies have entered China, with an investment total of about US$65 million."

"I understand more projects are on the anvil. We would equally like to see Chinese companies investing in India," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency June 23, 2003)

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