Beijing made an unprecedented gesture of friendship yesterday to express the significance it attaches to relations with India - it not only rolled out the red carpet for visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee but also feted the dignitary at the Forbidden City.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held the dinner for Mukherjee, who has often called him "my younger counterpart" in previous meetings.
The government has seldom used the imperial palace to treat either domestic elites or foreign guests.
In another rare move, Indian media reported that Yang has agreed to attend a dinner tomorrow at the Indian embassy in Beijing, hosted by the Indian ambassador in honor of Mukherjee.
In a one-hour meeting between the two ministers at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse yesterday afternoon, Mukherjee reiterated that India will not tolerate any people engaging in any anti-China political activities on Indian soil.
China earlier expressed gratitude for India's assistance in handling the agitation by Tibetan separatists during the Indian leg of the Olympic torch relay.
During the talks, Yang also thanked Mukherjee for India's aid after the May 12 earthquake.
"We're extremely thankful for the $5 million, and the letters of condolences from the Indian prime minister and Your Excellency," said Yang.
In response, Mukherjee spoke highly of China's disaster relief work and said India would like to continue offering help.
He will also take a batch of relief materials to Sichuan on his way home on Saturday.
The relations of the two most populous countries are better than at any time in history and are facing "an important strategic opportunity for development", said Yang.
The visit comes five months after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing, the first by an Indian prime minister in five years.
The leaders agreed to arrange visits to each other's countries this year.
"I'm willing to visit India later this year," said Yang.
After the talks, the two ministers witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the delivery of hydrological data for the Brahmaputra River by China to India.
(China Daily June 6, 2008)