Chinese FM Wang Yi to meet Jaishankar, Doval on March 25 to discuss LAC resolution, Ukrain...

Chinese FM Wang Yi to meet Jaishankar, Doval on March 25 to discuss LAC resolution, Ukraine crisis

Visit kept under wraps; meeting with PM Modi still under discussion, say officials 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to land in Delhi on Thursday evening for the first such visit by a Chinese official since PLA transgressions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in April, 2020 led to a standstill in political ties.

Official sources confirming the plans for the Minister in Delhi said all preparations have been made and Mr. Wang is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Friday to discuss the way forward on the LAC issue, the war in Ukraine and the BRICS process. However, it is still unclear whether he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the day–long visit, after which he is due to fly to Kathmandu. 

While Mr. Wang has met Mr. Jaishankar twice in the past two years and attended the Russia–India–China trilateral virtual meeting along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, there has been no direct contact between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping since China’s aggression across the LAC.   

The visit has been kept under wraps, say sources, amid differences over the agenda and scheduling issues during a busy time in New Delhi, and the meeting with Mr. Modi is still “under discussion”. The Ministry of External Affairs has made no formal comment on the impending visit thus far. 

Asked on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters, “I have no information to offer at this moment.” The MEA did however hit out at Mr. Wang’s remarks during his speech to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Pakistan on Tuesday when he said, “On Kashmir, we have heard again today the calls of many of our Islamic friends and China shares the same hope”. “We reject the uncalled reference,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, adding that matters relating to Kashmir “are entirely the internal affairs of India” and “other countries including China have no locus standi to comment”.ALSO READ

Departure from government position

The decision to host Mr. Wang in Delhi is a departure from the government position thus far that normalcy in the relationship can only follow a complete de–escalation and disengagement at the LAC. However, officials said they have made it clear that the unresolved LAC crisis remains the most important issue on the agenda, to the exclusion of all others, with some hoping that the ministerial–level talks will jumpstart the disengagement process that has been stalled. 

The 15th round of military–level talks, on March 11, did not achieve a breakthrough though both sides said the talks were positive. India is hopeful of reaching an agreement to disengage at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, which would leave only Demchok and Depsang as the remaining points of friction with disengagement already reached in the Galwan Valley in 2020 in the wake of the June 15, 2020 clash, in north and south banks of the Pangong Lake in February 2021 and from PP17A in the Gogra-Hot Springs area in August 2021. 

Both sides have differed on the way forward. India has said normalcy is not possible without peace on the LAC, while China has called for the border to be put in an ‘appropriate’ place and not dominate the relationship, a message that Mr. Wang is likely to repeat in New Delhi 

The second message from the Chinese side is likely to highlight the Ukraine crisis and the shared interests of India and China to help resolve it. 

Hu Shisheng, Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told The Hindu that it was “time for us two giants to do something out of the box”. “India’s stand is very similar with China’s…Both China and India don’t want to see a much weakened, isolated Russia, which means a more vulnerable regional and global order. We have stakes in a stable and not so isolated Russia, and we need to see what we two can do for ending this crisis”. 

Mr. Wang’s visit is also likely to focus on the role of the five-nation Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa process in the current crisis, and is likely to deliver an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an upcoming BRICS summit that is due to be held in China later this year. 

Mr. Wang is on a tour of South Asia landing first in Pakistan for a two–day trip (March 22-23) to address the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and is expected to travel to Nepal on Friday (March 25-27).

In Nepal, Mr. Wang is expected to reaffirm China’s commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative projects, in the wake of Nepali Parliament ratifying the American $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project

Sources have confirmed that Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba will visit India on April 1-2 for his first visit to India since he assumed office last year, where both bilateral issues and the ties with China and the U.S. will be discussed.

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