India-China talks today amid diplomatic chill; Azhar ban, NSG bid key issues | india-news | Hindustan Times
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India-China talks today amid diplomatic chill; Azhar ban, NSG bid key issues

Top officials from India and China will on Wednesday hold the first round of the upgraded strategic dialogue in snow-bound Beijing amid a diplomatic chill and cautious optimism about a thaw as the year progresses.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2017 15:35 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
In this file photo, Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar addresses a press conference in Karachi.
In this file photo, Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar addresses a press conference in Karachi.(AFP File Photo)

Top officials from India and China will on Wednesday hold the first round of the upgraded strategic dialogue in snow-bound Beijing amid a diplomatic chill and cautious optimism about a thaw as the year progresses. 

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar, who was India’s longest-serving envoy to China between 2009 and 2013, flew into Beijing from Colombo on Tuesday and met China’s top diplomat, state councillor Yang Jiechi, within hours. 

But the focus will be on Wednesday, when Jaishankar walks into one of the many ornate halls of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a scenic complex and former residence of Mao Zedong, to meet executive vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui.

The 64-year-old Yesui, who studied at the London School of Economics, and Jaishankar are expected to discuss a gamut of issues. India’s top diplomat is expected to raise two key problems that hit ties last year – China blocking India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and opposing New Delhi’s repeated efforts to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar listed by the UN’s al-Qaeda and Islamic State committee.

Read: It’s time India changed the foreign policy calculus with Pakistan and China

There’s unlikely to be progress in either case. 

Only last week, China said there was no consensus among UN Security Council members as India hasn’t provided “solid evidence” against Azhar, accused by New Delhi of masterminding last year’s terror attack on Pathankot airbase. 

On the NSG issue, China’s stand is that it wants to uphold the sanctity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Since India is not a signatory to the pact, admitting it into the NSG would spell doom for the NPT regime - that’s what China has been saying and is likely to say during the strategic dialogue as well. 

It‘s possible that China could raise the issue of India’s reluctance to come on board for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s ambitious, multi-billion dollar connectivity project over land and sea.

Read: India-China talks: Masood Azhar’s UN ban, NSG row among 5 things on agenda

Beijing is also likely to gently point out New Delhi’s long-standing diplomatic decision to follow the “One-China” policy and ask how that is impacted when India invites MPs from Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway region to be reunited if necessary by force. 

To some experts, the dialogue itself is a sign that the two countries are willing to engage. 

“It is particularly encouraging that the leaderships of China and India are aware of the important significance of a stable China-India relationship, having the consensus for an improved relationship between the two countries,” Guo Suiyuan, South Asia expert at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told Hindustan Times. 

“The strategic dialogue may open a new channel for improving understanding. It is much needed at this point of time for the healthy development of China-India relationship.”