Spring is the season of hope with flowers in full blossom.
Amidst the fresh spring air, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India paid an official visit to China from 14 to 16 May at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. As Chinese ambassador to India, I am happy to witness the historic visit.
The visit, the first by Mr Modi as Prime Minister of India, can be characterized by three ‘supers'.
First, Prime Minister Modi was accorded a super high-level reception. In the first stop of the visit, Xian, the capital of the home province of President Xi Jinping and a long-time ancient capital of China, a grand Tang-dynasty welcome ceremony was held to escort Prime Minister Modi into the city, the first ever such ceremony for a foreign dignitary in more than a decade. President Xi and Prime Minister Modi spent more than 5 hours together.
In addition to official meetings, the two leaders also visited Dacien Temple and Wild Goose Pagoda, built in commemoration of Xuanzang, the eminent Chinese monk who went on a pilgrimage to India for Buddhist scriptures, and watched traditional cultural performance together. President Xi held a special banquet for Prime Minister Modi at the ancient city wall complex.
It's particularly worth-noting that it is the first time for President Xi to host a foreign leader outside Beijing. And the visit in a way reciprocates President Xi's visit to Prime Minister Modi's home state, Gujarat, last year.
There is a special bond between the two places as Xuanzang pursued Buddhist learning in Gujarat and it was from there that he brought Buddhist scriptures back to then capital of Tang Dynasty, Xian, and translated and taught the scriptures there.
In Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang held a warm official welcome ceremony and state banquet for Prime Minister Modi.
The two leaders spent almost a whole day together, including official meetings that went much longer than expected, attendance in the first China-India State/Provincial Leaders' Forum and a Yoga-Taichi demonstration event.
A cabinet minister accompanied Prime Minister Modi throughout his visit in Beijing and Shanghai as representative of the Chinese government, a rare practice in many years. Each leg of the visit was marked by senior-level attendance, including Vice Speakers of the parliament, several cabinet ministers including the Foreign Minister and the Commerce Minister, governors and mayors.
All these special arrangements, senior attendance and high-level reception attest to the importance China attaches to the visit and the friendly relations between our two countries.
Second, the visit yielded super fruitful results. The leaders of our two countries had an in-depth exchange of views on a host of major issues of mutual interest, reached important consensus while not shying away from differences.
They took stock of China-India relations and charted the course for its future growth. The visit builds on the consensus to foster a Closer Developmental Partnership, further enriches the partnership and raised the regional and global significance of China-India cooperation.
A Joint Statement was issued, which noted that India-China bilateral relations are poised to play a defining role in the 21st century in Asia and indeed, globally. Peace and tranquility on the India-China border was recognized as an important guarantor for the development and continued growth of bilateral relations.
Pending a final resolution of the boundary question, the two sides commit to implementing the existing agreements and continue to make efforts to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.
Prime Minister Modi pointed out in his speech that “the prospects of the 21st century becoming the Asian century will depend in large measure on what India and China achieve individually and what we do together”.
A record number of 45 agreements were signed during the visit, including 24 inter-governmental agreements in outer space, cyber space, earthquake preparedness, maritime science, smart city, consular establishment, finance, education, exchanges between political parties, local States/Provinces and think tanks, etc, and 21 business agreements worth USD 22 billion.
I remember saying to the Indian press before the visit that the business agreements signed would be no less than USD 10 billion. I thought at the time of the interview that I was giving a rather bold number, but it turned out to be too modest. Prime Minister Modi also brought a special gift to the Chinese people by announcing the extension of e-visas to Chinese nationals.
All these deliverables are bound to inject fresh dynamism to our relations.
Third, the visit was conducted in a super friendly atmosphere. Prime Minister Modi opened a Chinese Weibo account to say “Ni Hao” (hello) to the Chinese people and met with Chinese journalists before the much-anticipated visit.
Throughout the visit, he was warmly received by the Chinese government and people. Everywhere he went, the feeling of warmth and friendship was very much in the air. The choice of Xian, the symbol and witness of the millennium-old friendly exchanges between the Indian and Chinese peoples, is in itself of great significance.
There, Prime Minister Modi visited the famous Terracotta Warriors and Daxingshan Temple, where three eminent Indian monks taught and promoted Buddhism more than 1,400 years ago.
Hundreds of thousands local residents lined up the streets to welcome Prime Minister Modi, waving and shouting “Modi, Modi”, all eager to catch a glimpse and maybe a picture of the Prime Minister.
Moved by their enthusiasm, Prime Minister Modi stopped the motorcade to interact with local people. At the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, the Yoga-Taichi event brought together more than 400 people from 8-year old to 80-year old. At Tsinghua University and the opening ceremony of Center for Gandhian and Indian Studies at Fudan University, Prime Minister Modi's remarks were a big hit.
At the State/Provincial Leaders' Forum, many local leaders from the two countries queued to have photos with Prime Minister Modi and Premier Li. At the business forum in Shanghai, many top Chinese CEOs expressed their desire to invest in India.
During the visit, Prime Minister Modi posted dozens of Tweets and Weibo, including the much-liked-and-forwarded selfie with Premier Li. All this speaks volume of the strong will of our two peoples to build on the traditional friendship and open up new prospects in China-India relations.
The three-day visit is now successfully concluded, but with its fruitful achievements and wide-ranging impact, it will leave a big imprint in our relations. Like our cooperation in high-speed railway, the train of China-India relations has entered a fast track of high-speed growth.
As Chinese ambassador to India, I am truly encouraged by this milestone visit. We will implement the outcomes of the visit, enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board in the interest of our two countries and two peoples, and jointly write a new chapter in the duet of the Chinese dragon and the Indian elephant.