OREANDA-NEWS. On the morning of May 24, President Pranab Mukherjee leaves for a four-day visit to China, the first by a president since 2010. At one level, the visit is a protocol response to that of President Xi Jinping to India in 2014.

At another, it seeks to convey the intention of the two countries to maintain the tempo of high-level visits to each other’s countries. In 2014, vice-president Hamid Ansari also visited China and in 2015, the Chinese vice-president Liu Yuanchao came to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to China.

Later this year, Modi will visit Hangzhou for the G20 summit and Xi will come to Goa for the BRICS meet.

The president of India is a largely ceremonially figure who must by law conduct himself at the advice of the government of the day. So, he is unlikely to undertake any negotiation or initiative on his own.

But, as a seasoned politician, the president is not just an elder statesman, but an experienced hand in government who is fully cognisant of the issues of the Sino-Indian relations.

In line with this, the government is using his visit to convey to Beijing that India attaches great importance to its relations with China and seeks a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship at all times.

His message will be that India is open for business and warmly welcomes Chinese investment in all sectors of our economy where it will find a level playing field.Another aspect of the visit will be to enhance the Sino-Indian business relationship and to this end, in Guangzhou, Pranab will meet with Indian and Chinese business leaders and reinforce India’s commitment to better trade and investment relations with China.

At a more practical level, in his talks with Premier Li Keqiang he will, no doubt, raise the important issue of righting the current imbalance of trade in favour of Chinese exports to India which is hurtful for the overall relationship.