While the recent visit of Chinese premier Li Keqiang was dominated by the border issue in light of the military confrontation in Ladakh's Depsang plains, a prominent Hong Kong magazine has expressed 'surprise' at the raising of the issue by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the joint press interaction that took place towards the end of the tour.
The Phoenix Weekly, a Chinese language magazine that is published out of Hong Kong, has commented in a recent piece on Li's four nation tour, saying that the two leaders spoke to each other for over an hour, instead of the half-an-hour slotted for an informal interaction and while India raised the issue of the confrontation and trans-border river issues, the Chinese side spoke on the 'Tibet issue'.
However, the magazine says that there was surprise in the Chinese quarters after Singh raised the border confrontation issue during a joint press conference, adding that Li handled the 'sensitive topic' with a friendly reply.
“In the press conference after the formal talks, the fact that the Indian PM quickly raked up differences on the border took some by surprise. However, even on this sensitive topic, Premier Li came up with the reply; “We are not only strategic partners, but also friends. Therefore, we can be frank with each other. We cannot deny the differences that exist between us, but by working on improving the efficiency of the relevant mechanisms, we can properly resolve our differences, as well as improve their management and control”, the article says.
It also says that the Chinese premier 'smiled his way through tough negotiations' with India. The weekly has described the subsequent Pakistan leg of the visit as 'much easier'.
“The subsequent trip to Pakistan was much easier. The Pakistani side extended all possible courtesies to Li, giving him a fighter jet air escort and awarding him the highest civilian honour of Pakistan,” it says.
The article opines that the selection of India and Pakistan for the Premier's first visits abroad 'reflects China's desire to strike a fine balance between a ‘good friend’ and ‘the enemy of a good friend’ in South Asia'.