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New China premier Li Keqiang, Manmohan Singh speak by phone

New Delhi Hours after he was elected as China's new Premier, Li Keqiang today called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying he was looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations between the neighbouring countries.

PM congratulated Li on his election and expressed his desire to work together with China's new leadership. He also expressed satisfaction with the progress in bilateral relations in recent years and expressed confidence that bilateral ties will expand further in the years ahead, official sources said.

The telephonic conversation happened hours after the 57-year-old Chinese leader was appointed Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

"Prime Minister Singh congratulated Mr Li on his appointment and expressed a desire to work together with him to realise the full potential of the relationship between India and China," a source said.

Premier Li noted that Prime Minister would have an opportunity to interact with the new leadership of China on the sidelines of the upcoming BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa, later this month, the sources said.

China's new President Xi Jinping is scheduled to attend the BRICS Summit from March 26-27 where he will be joined by the PM. The two leaders also emphasised the need for maintaining high-level exchanges. They extended invitation to each other to pay bilateral visits at their earliest convenience.

In January, Xi, also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party, had written to Dr Singh, assuring that his country would pay "great importance" to developing bilateral ties with India as their cooperation has brought "substantial benefits" to both sides.

"China will, as it has been doing, pay great importance to developing relations with India and expects to carry out close cooperation with India to create a brighter future of their bilateral relations," Xi had said in a letter to Singh.

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