A week of high-level interactions between India and China including meetings between visiting defence minister Manohar Parrikar and Chinese military officials starting Monday is set to bring back bilateral focus on issues dogging the relationship between the two giant neighbours.
Discussions are likely to focus on China’s recent “veto” on Pakistani terror suspect, Masood Azhar, the festering border dispute with recurring incursions by border patrols, Beijing’s disquiet over New Delhi’s increasing military engagement with the US, subsequent joint statements and reports on “joint patrolling” of the South China Sea (SCS).
The modalities to open a sixth meeting point for military personnel along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) could also come up for discussion.
In 2015, two new meeting points were opened at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh and Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh. The other three points are Spanngur Gap in Ladakh, Bum-La in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in Sikkim.
Parrikar is landing in Beijing Sunday evening after spending a day in Shanghai where he met the Indian diaspora. His delegation includes Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba, FOC-in –C, Western Naval Command and Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, DGMO.
Over the next couple of days he is expected to meet Premier Li Keqiang and top officials from China’s powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), which is headed by President Xi Jinping. A visit to the Chengdu military command headquarters is on the cards.
External Affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj will meet Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the annual foreign ministers’ meeting of the Russia, India and China (RIC) grouping in Moscow.
And, back in Beijing, national security adviser, AK Doval will hold border talks with Councilor Yang Jiechi; both are the designated “Special Representatives (SR)’’ and will hold the 19th round of talks to resolve the border dispute under the SR mechanism. The last round was held more than a year ago in March in New Delhi.
During Parrikar’s meetings, he is likely to be asked about India’s position on the South China sea disputes that China has with several countries in the region.
Beijing might want to know why India has in the recent past has talked about the “freedom of navigation” in the South China sea echoing US and Japan’s opinions.
Azhar will loom large over the meetings with Beijing using technical jargon to defend its decision to oppose the move to ban him much to India’s indignation.
“In order to reach international consensus on counter terrorism, China encourage all parties to fully leverage the leading and coordinating role played by the UN and the Security Council and forge international synergy on counter-terrorism,” the Chinese foreign ministry told PTI.
On the border, the two countries are probably not any closer to resolving the dispute any time soon. The discussions between Doval and Yang will focus more on the mechanisms that have been put in place to tackle situations like incursions and stand-offs between the two militaries; and whether those mechanisms have been effective in defusing tension along the border.