Rare honour for PM
In a rare show of honour on Tuesday, five top Chinese leaders called on the prime minister, Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, to congratulate him on the signing of the historic accord on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC) earlier in the day.
The five leaders - the president, Mr. Jiang Zemin, who is also the Chinese Communist Party general secretary, the premier, Mr. Li Peng, the National People’s Congress chairman, Mr. Qiao Shi the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference chairman, Mr. Li Ruihuan, and the young and enterprising yet influential leader, Mr. Hu Jintao, hugged the prime minister amidst the showering of encomiums on him.
The calling of the five top-rung leaders on the Indian prime minister on such occasion is highly significant and amounts to a rare privilege in the otherwise hierarchy-minded China.
Mr. Narasimha Rao recalled the initiative taken by the two countries on the five principles of peaceful coexistence, Panchsheel, some four decades ago. “We have a lot in common” Mr. Narasimha Rao told Mr. Peng to which he remarked, “Yes, of course”.
The Chinese premier said relations between two big countries constituted a crucial factor for attaining stability and political tranquillity in Asia.
Mr. Peng told Mr. Narasimha Rao that his visit had a positive impact on the love-hate relationship between the two contiguous countries.
An overawed Narasimha Rao ostensibly touched by Mr. Peng’s warm speech said the two countries have always remained friends despite heavy odds. “We have never allowed our differences to hamper the growth of relations,” Mr. Narasimha Rao added.
Mr. Narasimha Rao asked the Chinese leaders to reciprocate the gesture of the then defence minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar, in visiting China. “Now it’s your turn to send the defence minister to India,” he said.
The Chinese leaders readily accepted the prime minister’s proposition. With the formal acceptance of the invitation, the Chinese defence minister’s visit may come about soon.
Interestingly, the lower-rung Chinese officials were extremely guarded in their response to the Indian Press. Every question met with a firm one-liner: “We are not to talk”.