India, China in talks over Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit

India, China in talks over Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit

Month-end visit could mark turnaround in relations between the neighbours

Signalling a possible turnaround in ties, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi could visit India later this month, the first such visit by a Chinese official since the crisis along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) sparked by the Chinese military’s transgressions in April 2020.

Sources confirmed that a proposal for Mr. Wang’s visit to India has been received by New Delhi and is under consideration.

If the Modi government accepts the proposal for the visit, it would mark a shift in its stand, articulated by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, that there can be no “business as usual” between the two countries until there is complete disengagement and de-escalation of the massive troop build-up along the LAC.  Both India’s Ministry of External Affairs and China’s Foreign Ministry did not comment on the proposed visit.

The proposed visit to India is understood to be part of Mr. Wang’s travels to south Asia. On Monday, Nepali media reported that the Chinese Foreign Minister would visit Kathmandu on March 26 for a two-day visit and call on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and hold talks with Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka. The Foreign Ministers are expected to sign a project implementation document for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects during the visit.

Stand on Ukraine issue

Mr. Wang’s visit to India will come at a time when both India and China have taken similar positions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, where they abstained on resolutions aimed at Russia. China is also the Chair of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping this year, which could convene an in-person summit later this year if COVID-19 regulations are lifted.

While Mr. Wang has met Mr. Jaishankar on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings over the past two years, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met his counterpart Wei Fenghe, all talks thus far have only focused on the situation at the LAC.

In addition, after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Delhi in December 2021, the Kremlin had indicated that Russia could help organise a Russia-India-China (RIC) Summit in 2022, which could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi come face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since the LAC crisis.

LAC talks

Talks towards LAC disengagement are still on-going, and both sides described the latest 15 th round last week as positive and forward-looking. Both sides are hopeful of reaching an agreement to disengage at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, which would leave Demchok and Depsang as 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.

Mr. Wang said during China’s annual National People’s Congress session that concluded last week that “relations encountered setbacks in recent years” which “did not serve the fundamental interest of the two countries and people”.

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