As Indian president Pratibha Patil leaves for her first six-day China visit today, she has a busy schedule ahead of her. Patil will meet her counterpart President Hu Jintao, the National People’s Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. She will then head south-west to Luoyang to inaugurate an Indian-style Buddhist temple. Patil will end her trip in Shanghai on China’s eastern coast where she will inaugurate a statue of Rabindranath Tagore, visit the Shanghai expo and be the guest of honour at a music concert for which Liu Yuening and Ashok Chakravarthy have composed a sino-indian medley. Patil, who has been invited to China by Hu Jinato will be the first Indian head of state to visit China in 10 years. Her visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China.
Besides strengthening cultural, diplomatic and trade ties between the two nations, Patil will also lead a delegation of 60 businessmen comprising members of all the three apex chambers of India. With bilateral trade expected to hit US$60 billion this year, China and India are expected to work closer together to collectively curb climate change, improve Asia’s socio-economic position and symbiotically improve economies.
Luoyang, on of the sites Patil will visit is located in the western part of China’s central Henan Province and is one of China’s seven ancient capitals. During her visit, Patil will dedicate to the Chinese people an Indian-style Buddhist temple that was inspired by the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh. The Indian style temple is adjacent to the White Horse Temple (Bai ma Si) (picture above) built in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming to accommodate Indian monks Dharmaratna and Kasyapa Matanga, who as the legend goes had travelled to China on white horses, carrying with them religious texts and an image of the Buddha to introduce Buddhism in China. The monastery is believed to be the first Buddhist temple to be built in China. While the idea of the temple and land (6,000 sq metres) was given by the Chinese during former prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit in 2003, India has spent around Rs 2 crore (US$0.4 million) over the past four years over technical, financial and other support.