The visit by Sushma Swaraj and Minister Nirmala Sithraman will aim at breaking the logjam that India and China are stuck in after Doklam crisis. Apart from bolstering bilateral and military ties, the high-level visit by the two senior Ministers and their interaction with their counterparts will try to set the stage for the upcoming informal meet between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping on April 27th.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who is in China attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit 2018, met with State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi to set the foundation for the high-level engagements between India and China. The two leaders exchanged views on bilateral matters and other global issues with a motive to improve relations between the two countries. A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said that the two leaders made headway in diverse areas, which has helped in setting a positive tone for the upcoming SCO Summit. The two Ministers also exchanged views on counter-terrorism, ways to address regional and global threats, climate change, energy and also healthcare. Addressing the media, Sushma Swaraj also said that the two countries will be sharing data on Brahmaputra and Sutlej river again in 2018. She also said that the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra through Nathu La would be resumed. Today, Swaraj also called on Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan to further discuss bilateral ties.
While Sushma Swaraj is setting the agenda for bilateral talks with China, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is all set to bolster military interactions with China soon. Minister Sitharaman who will be visiting China from April 23rd to April 25th, will be meeting her counterpart General Wei Fenghe. This will be the second meeting of the two Defence Ministers in this month. Sitharaman had earlier met Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the Moscow Conference on International Security 2018.This meet by the two Defence Ministers will act as the right opportunity to resume military exchanges and build a new rapport after the 73-day standoff at Doklam.
The defence ties will become an integral part of the discussion as border stability is the key for the bilateral relations to go forward. “In the context of border stability, defence becomes important. For any bilateral arrangement to work, it is no surprise that issues at the border must be resolved and this is why Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit will be very crucial”, Srikanth Kondapalli, China Expert told Financial Express.
At the SCO summit, China is likely to raise issues regarding the South China Sea and One Belt One Road initiative and Russia is likely to raise issues over the diplomatic crisis with the West and also air strikes on Syria. With no bilateral issues being allowed to raise at the SCO Summit, the two senior Ministers from India will only review global and regional security matters and clear their positions on the same. However, the meeting of Swaraj with Yi and upcoming talks between Sitharaman and General Fenghe will be the fundamental driving force to also address the key issues pertaining to India.
“China will certainly raise three matters. The first will be the growing India-US relations, second would be OBOR and finally, the issue of Tibet. On the contrary, India will speak about border transgression, cross-border terrorism, CPEC passing through PoK and finally growing Chinese influence in Nepal and Maldives”, Kondapalli added.
In the light of these discussions, defence and military interactions will play a major role. So, the visit by Sushma Swaraj and Minister Nirmala Sithraman will not just cushion areas of common interest between the two nations, but will also buttress the informal meeting between the heads of the state. A few days earlier, even the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had held talks with the top official of China’s ruling Communist Party Yang Jiechi in Shanghai. Both the officials had also agreed to maintain the pace through of high-level exchanges after last year’s Dokalam standoff.