China premier to visit India, Pakistan on first foreign trip

BEIJING Mon May 13, 2013 4:46am EDT

China's Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing May 10, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

China's Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing May 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/China Daily

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BEIJING (Reuters) - New Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit India and Pakistan on his first foreign trip since assuming office, on a week-long overseas foray that will also take in Switzerland and Germany, the Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.

Li, who became prime minister in March, will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, as well as other political leaders, ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing, without giving details.

China and India, despite both being founding members of the BRICS group of developing nations and having increasingly close economic relations, have long looked with suspicion at each other following a brief border war in 1962, which China won.

Both countries were involved in a renewed border standoff which calmed down this month after India agreed to a Chinese demand to demolish a remote army position, a topic discussed when India's foreign minister visited China last week.

"The appropriate resolution of this issue again shows that both sides ... are committed to friendly consultation to resolve such problems," Hong said.

Visits to India by high-ranking Chinese officials are generally accompanied by corresponding visits to Pakistan.

China and Pakistan call each other "all-weather friends" and their close ties have for decades been underpinned by wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence across the region.

Li will make his trip from May 19-27, Hong added, without saying how long he would be spending in each of the four countries.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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