High-level contact between India and China is usually marked by three things: High-minded rhetoric about cooperation between the two Asian giants, substantive agreements that improve economic ties and an awkward manoeuvre by Beijing that embarrasses the regime in New Delhi.
The recent visit to China by Vice-President Hamid Ansari and commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman was marked by all those elements. There was plenty of cordial rhetoric on view during the visit that marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Panchsheel Treaty.
Ms Sitharaman tackled substantive issues and pressed China to open up its markets for Indian IT services, pharmaceuticals and other products. She made the case for more Chinese investment in India to close the trade gap.
Both sides took a helpful step in this direction by signing an agreement to set up industrial parks in India which can host Chinese manufacturing facilities. Beijing agreed to provide upstream hydrological data from the Brahmaputra to help India in flood forecasting.
These productive outcomes were, however, marred by two Chinese moves.
First, four Chinese speed boats strayed six km into the Indian side on the Pangong Lake in Ladakh last week.
If that could be brushed off as an inadvertent mistake, there was nothing accidental about a new map released by Chinese authorities that represented Taiwan, disputed islands in the South China Sea and Arunachal Pradesh as part of China.
The Narendra Modi government downplayed the map issue saying that cartographic changes do not alter facts on the ground. Some may laud South Block for its measured reaction in the context of securing greater Chinese investment, but New Delhi would do well to communicate firmly to Beijing that there will no tradeoffs between strategic interests and economic gains.
Mr Modi should set clear the terms of his engagement with China while Beijing must realise that it can, with tactics like these, easily fritter away the advantage of having an Indian PM who comes in to office more favourably disposed to China than any of his recent peers.