Ahead of his visit to New Delhi, China's new Premier Li Keqiang today said India and China "must shake hands" to make Asia an "engine of the world economy".
Addressing the 100 member Indian youth delegation at Zhongnanhai, the imperial gardens housing the headquarters of China's ruling Communist Party and central government, Li spoke warmly about his visit to India 27 years ago as leader of a youth delegation.
The fond memories of that visit made him to choose India to be the fist overseas visit, he said. Li will reach New Delhi on May 19.
"Many people in the world believe that in the 21st century, the Asia-Pacific, Asia in particular will play a more important role in global economy and politics and that Asia will become an important engine for the world economy", he said.
"For this vision to truly come true our two countries must shake hands and conduct exchanges so that together we can raise the standing of Asia in the world and truly make Asian economy an important engine for the world economy", he said avoiding any references to the recent border stand-off near Ladakh which was resolved after a 20 days.
"The linkage of our two vast markets will bring tangible benefits to people in both the countries and provide strong impetus for world economic growth and prosperity as well as that in Asia", he said.
"People say Asia represents the hope for the future of the world. That I think is because you the young people. To turn the hope into reality, we must start with exchanges between the young people of the two countries", he said.
Recalling his visit to India over two decade and half decades ago, he said, "What I saw and felt during that trip, visiting Taj Mahal and prestigious Indian Universities, research institutes and warmth and hospitality of Indian people, left a lasting impact on me".
"In a few days time I will make India the first stop of first overseas visit as a Premier of China. I have made this decision not just because India is an important neighbour and one of the populous countries of the world but also because of the seeds of friendship sown during my own youth", he said.
Li shook hands with some of the delegates, spoke to them briefly before giving his extempore speech stressing on friendly relations between the two countries.
"You are from China's friendly neighbour and here on behalf of the Chinese government I would like to express our greetings and best regards to you and through you all the young people in India," he said adding that it is "so good to see the young people of China and of India getting along well with each other".
"Both China and India are ancient civilisations. We have created great civilisations that can make mankind proud and our two countries are proud historical tradition of cultural interflows and now the conditions are even better faced to learn from each other culturally," he said.
"China and India are friendly neighbours and we are also natural partners. Both of our countries stand for amicable and peaceful relations between the countries and a multi polar world. The peaceful and friendly relations between our two countries is blessing not just to Asia but also the whole world," he said.
"As I embark on my visit to India, I hope that you will during this trip sow the seeds of friendship and nurture the young sapling of this friendship so that it will grow into towering tree and strong bridge between out two countries," he said.
Li will be visiting New Delhi and Mumbai during his three day visit before leaving for Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland.
The run up to his visit was overshadowed by the military stand off at Daulat Beig Oldi (DBO) in Ladkah area where Chinese soldiers pitched tents on April 15, 19 km inside the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
China initially denied its troops violated the LAC but pulled out its soldiers after tense talks between the two sides.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid who met Li on May 10 here and discussed the programme of his visit to New Delhi said the Chinese Premier wants India to be his first destination because "he (Li) puts India in that position" and sees the country as a natural partner.
The visit by the youth delegation, drawn from different parts of India has become a regular feature between the two countries.
Li's meeting with youth looked formal though it took place in front of his sprawling office. Unlike last time, today's event was devoid of any cultural programmes.
Ahead of the event the high guarded Zhungnainhai, also the home of Chinese leaders, witnessed commotion when a local protestor tried to gate crash apparently to air his grievances to the leaders.
He was forcibly removed by the security staff.
Security was so tight that even the Indian media was not allowed to meet the Indian delegates to talk about their impressions.
The Indian youth delegation is on a nine day interactive visit to China.
Few months ago a 500 member Chinese youth delegation visited India and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.