New Delhi: India and China are set to step up their diplomatic engagement Friday and seek to reduce tensions along their Himalayan border as Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi arrived in New Delhi for his first visit in two years — although to an unusually low profile and even frosty reception.
The visit is happening at a time when troops of both countries are engaged in a tough border stand-off on the eastern sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for nearly two years now. This is the Chinese foreign minister’s first visit to India since the stand-off began in April-May 2020 and witnessed the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in June 2020 in the Galwan Valley.
Wang last visited India for the Special Representative talks on the boundary question with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in December 2019.
On Thursday, Wang landed in the national capital late evening. He will leave for Nepal Friday afternoon. During his brief stay, he will meet Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who will be hosting a luncheon for Wang at the Hyderabad House, diplomatic sources told ThePrint.
Despite such high-profile meetings, which many are expecting might put an end to the ongoing stand-off, both sides chose to maintain stone-cold silence blaming the other for not making the announcement in a timely manner.
According to diplomatic sources, India wanted China to make the announcement first while Beijing was awaiting New Delhi’s to make the first move.
However, New Delhi decided to completely shelve the idea of making an official announcement when the Chinese FM spoke about Jammu and Kashmir at the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Pakistan. On Thursday, in response to media queries on references to India in the statements and resolutions adopted at the OIC meeting, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said nations that “associate themselves with such exercises should realise the impact it has on their reputation”.
Beijing also kept silent about Wang’s visit. Asked during a press conference the same day to confirm the visit to India, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “If there is any information on that, we will release it in a timely manner.”
However, hours earlier, when Wang was in Kabul on a surprise visit, Beijing had been actively promoting the trip. This is because Beijing wanted to send the message out that China sees South Asia as one of the priority areas in its foreign policy, sources said.
What’s on agenda?
According to sources, China had been “carefully watching” India’s moves in the Russia-Ukraine war and believes that New Delhi’s stand on the issue has opened up some space for Beijing to begin a dialogue with India as far as bilateral ties with India are concerned.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval early Friday morning and both sides are expected to “extensively discuss” a way out of the border stand-off, especially from some of the more complex areas of Demchok, Depsang and PP15, sources said.
The two sides will also discuss the Ukraine war and ascertain if a meeting of the RIC (Russia-India-China) grouping can be soon called.
Afghanistan is expected to be yet another point of discussion for Wang during his meeting with Jaishankar.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Beijing is “speeding up” the process to organise the third foreign ministers’ meeting among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan.
Wang is expected to extend an invite to India to attend the meeting on Afghanistan. During his hurricane trip to Kabul, Wang not only met Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mottaqi but also made it a point to exchange pleasantries with Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani.
The visit came days after China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi met US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Rome.
On OIC statement
On Thursday, MEA spokesperson Bagchi called Pakistan a “manipulator” after reporters asked questions on references to India at the OIC meeting.
“The statements and resolutions adopted at the meeting demonstrate both the irrelevance of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as a body and role of Pakistan as its manipulator,” he said.
“References have been made to India that are based on falsehoods and misrepresentation. The absurdity of this body commenting on the treatment of minorities, that too at the instance of a serial violator of human rights like Pakistan, is so evident,” he added. “Nations and Governments that associate themselves with such exercises should realise the impact it has on their reputation.”
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar made a few remarks on the India-China ties during a lecture in St. Stephen’s College.
“The world being what it is, self-interest and convergence cannot be fully counted upon, especially with neighbours. Their ambitions and emotions are not always predictable, nor indeed their risk-taking propensity. Few would have anticipated, for example, the turn that India’s relations with China have taken in the last two years. Any prudent policy therefore backs its posture with capabilities and deterrence,” said Jaishankar.
“A big responsibility of Indian diplomacy, therefore, is to create the widest set of options for such contingencies. This could mean acquisition of defence capabilities and other supportive measures or securing the understanding for our policies and actions from the international community. And for that matter, in managing or resolving more fraught situations,” he added.