Modi scores big hit with micro blog in run-up to China visit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering a speech during International Buddha Poornima Diwas celebrations in New Delhi on May 4, 2015. Mr Modi attracted thousands of Internet users on Monday by opening an account on one of China's most popular
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering a speech during International Buddha Poornima Diwas celebrations in New Delhi on May 4, 2015. Mr Modi attracted thousands of Internet users on Monday by opening an account on one of China's most popular social media platforms, Weibo, ahead of a visit to the country this month. -- PHOTO: AFP 

(CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attracted thousands of Internet users on Monday by opening an account on one of China's most popular social media platforms ahead of a visit to the country this month.

Using the Twitter-like weibo.com, Modi posted at 12.28 pm, "Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo."

The post was immediately forwarded more than 4,700 times and attracted more than 7,800 comments within three hours.

Among these, some welcomed Modi's "positive gesture", while many others raised issues that have posed obstacles to ties between the two countries for decades.

One post stated: "I suggest improving the social status of Indian women and protecting the safety of females! Or we foreign women will not dare travel to India." The post attracted more than 700 "likes".

As of 4pm, the Prime Minister's account had attracted more than 16,600 followers.

A source at the Indian embassy in China said the embassy started to communicate with weibo.com several weeks ago over issues such as the Chinese name for Modi's account.

According to a news release from the embassy, the purpose of opening a micro blog is to "enhance communication with the sisters and brothers of China".

The release added: "This is the first attempt of its kind by any Indian leader."

It said Modi has been an avid and active user of social media for several years. "He has used diverse social media platforms to reach out to people across India and the world," it said.

The release said Modi is scheduled to visit China later this month, but it did not disclose further details about the trip. As chief minister of Gujarat in western India, Modi travelled to China in November 2011.

It is not the first time that a foreign leader has opened a micro blog before making an official trip to China. In September 2013, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro opened a micro-blog account before visiting the country.

More than 200 leaders of foreign countries and international organisations, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, had opened micro-blog accounts as of April last year, according to data from weibo.com.

Le Yucheng, the Chinese ambassador to India, said Modi will have the chance to communicate with China's businesspeople, young students and the public in his visit.

"Companies from both countries are also preparing a series of cooperation projects. If they reach consensus, the agreements could be worth at least US$10 billion (S$13.3 billion)," Le said in the Indian newspaper The Hindu.