Departing from the convention of the National Security Advisor (NSA) doubling up as the ‘special representative’ for boundary talks with Beijing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may appoint foremost China expert Shyam Saran, a former foreign secretary, as the Indian representative for resolving the vexed issue. Saran, currently the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) chairperson, was then PM Manmohan Singh’s special envoy on climate change talks in 2008.
Government sources told Hindustan Times that last week Modi had a detailed discussion on China with Saran, NSA Ajit Doval and former NSA Shiv Shankar Menon. While Doval is well-versed with the India-China ties and has even written an authoritative paper on Chinese Intelligence, Saran and Menon are said to be the finest foreign policy minds on ties with Beijing. It is learnt that the brainstorming continued for over an hour with the PM formulating India’s strategy towards China on the basis of this session.
Saran was singularly involved in upgrading border infrastructure both on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan during the UPA regime. Saran had made several trips to the LAC and LoC to identify the shortcomings in border infrastructure and suggest specific measures to improve Indian capability.
A fluent Chinese speaker, Saran is expected to be State Councillor Yang Jiechi’s counterpart for the 18th round of talks. Yang is senior to the Chinese foreign minister in hierarchy.
The 18th round of talks will be scheduled after President Xi Jinping visits India on September 17-18, 2014. There is speculation that Modi may take Xi to Gujarat or some other city outside Delhi.
While both India and China have reiterated that a tranquil border was a powerful guarantor of positive bilateral ties, the PLA troops routinely transgress across the LAC in the Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh sectors.
The onus will now be on the new ‘special representative’ to at least clarify on the LAC in the western sector.