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Li Keqiang on First Official Trip

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang headed for India on the opening leg of his first official trip May 20, a move that analysts say is an obvious signal of the Chinese administration’s intention to improve ties with its neighbors.

Just weeks ago, Beijing and New Delhi saw relations cool, with both sides encamped at the western section of their disputed border in a face-off that lasted for over 20 days. Although the confrontation finally ended with both sides pulling back, it has triggered a new wave of “China threat” rhetoric in India.

Li’s visit is of great significance in terms of easing tension. “China has left India far behind with its rapid GDP growth, causing India to worry about its leading position in South Asia,” Jin Canrong, an international relations expert, told the Beijing Times. “The visit aims to clear away the shadows and create more room for cooperation.”

“The purposes of my visit to India are to increase mutual trust, to deepen cooperation and to [better] face the future,” Li told Indian reporters.

These objectives were reflected in the joint statements signed by the two sides, covering cooperation on topics including border security and military issues.

“The [joint] statement has improved mutual trust on both sides,” Jiang Jingkui, a South Asian issues expert, told CRI Online. “It indicates that the two governments will maintain close contact and jointly defend the border until the territorial dispute is settled,” he added.

Li Keqiang left India on May 22 and visited Pakistan, where the traditional allies signed an array of cooperation agreements. Business deals were also inked at Li’s next two destinations, the economic powerhouses of Switzerland and Germany.

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