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Sino-Indian friendship can change 'look of Asia'
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The friendship between China and India and their "mutually beneficial cooperation will change the look of Asia and the world at large", President Hu Jintao told Sonia Gandhi, president of India's ruling Congress Party on Friday.

Gandhi met with Premier Wen Jiabao, too, and exchanged views on a range of bilateral and party-to-party issues with the two leaders.

With leaders on both sides appreciating the steadily growing bilateral ties, Hu, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said the CPC and the Chinese government have always tried to develop ties with India from a strategic and global point of view.

The CPC is willing to maintain the good momentum in developing relations with major political parties in India, Hu said, and pledged to enhance the exchange of young politicians between the CPC and the Congress Party.

Gandhi, too, said she would like to see more active party-to-party exchanges.

The widow of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi is the first leader of a foreign political party to meet Hu and Wen since the conclusion of the 17th CPC National Congress on October 21.

Sonia Gandhi's visit shows the great importance the two sides attach to the development of bilateral ties, Hu said.

Her five-day visit to China comes just before Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's impending visit later this year.

The Congress Party chief said she treasured the rare honor bestowed on her, and was impressed by the achievements of the Chinese people as great changes had taken place since her last visit.

Wen recalled his meeting with Sonia Gandhi when she accompanied her husband to China in 1988. At that time, he said, late leader Deng Xiaoping told Rajiv Gandhi that without the development of China and India, the next century could not be called "the century of Asia".

China hopes to see a prosperous India because the two countries, being the most populous and among the largest developing countries, are neighbors, friends and partners, Wen said.

Sonia Gandhi delivered a speech at Tsinghua University to about 50 students on Saturday.

"We may well have different views and different perspectives on both bilateral and global issues. That is only natural," Gandhi said.

"However, I have no doubt that there is no problem that can not be sorted out through free and frank dialogue and discussion."

In her 20 minute speech, Sonia Gandhi also spoke highly of China's progress in recent years, saying that the two countries "have much to contribute to one another."

"People in our country admire the tremendous progress China has made since it began its economic reforms in 1978."

Gandhi's speech comes nearly 20 years after her husband, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, gave a speech to the same university during his official visit in 1988. He was assassinated in 1991.

She will also visit Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, and one of China's ancient capitals famous for the terracotta warriors, and Shanghai during her five-day visit.

(China Daily October 28, 2007)

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