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BEIJING, May 15: Ahead of his visit to New Delhi, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang has said India and China “must shake hands” to make Asia an “engine of world economy”.

Addressing a 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 choose India as the first country to visit officially after becoming premier, he said. Li would 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 reference to the recent border stand-off near Ladakh which was resolved after 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…,” he remarked.

“People say Asia represents the hope for the future of the world. That I think is because of you, the young people. To turn hope into reality, we must start with exchanges between the young people of the two countries,” he said.

“In a few days I will make India the first stop of my first overseas trip as premier of China. I have made this decision not just because India is an important neighbour and one of the most populous countries of the world but also because of the seeds of friendship sown during my own youth,” he said.

By arrangement with the Times of India