The three-day China visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will reach Beijing on Tuesday evening, could not have come at a more crucial time for him and the ruling Congress-led UPA government.
During his second visit to China since he became PM in 2004, Singh is expected to sign a new border pact with his Chinese counterpart in view of the recent border tensions in Ladakh and discuss the burgeoning trade deficit between the two countries.
Singh will meet Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday and also attend banquets hosted by both Li and President Xi Jinping, as part of the second leg of his ongoing two-nation tour.
He has already held summit-level talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
However, the PM’s visit to China will be keenly watched at home.
Singh has been accused by the Opposition of being “weak” in dealing with China, and encouraging the incursions by Chinese troops at Depsang valley in eastern Ladakh
India had accused China of intrusion after its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers pitched tents on Indian territory in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector, leading to a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.
Moreover, with the 2014 general elections just around the corner, the outcome of the China visit is likely to impact the incumbent UPA government’s chances of returning to power.
On Wednesday, the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) is expected to be signed between India and China.
The pact would require both governments to rein in their border patrols along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which demarcates the border between both nations.
Hence, the BDCA is expected to curb future border face-offs.
However, a much-awaited agreement on liberalising the visa regime was reportedly dropped from the agenda. India’s cabinet did not clear the proposed agreement due to reservations over Chinese visa procedures, such as issuing stapled visas for residents of Arunachal Pradesh that led to two Indian archers missing a competition in Beijing.
Similarly, an agreement on establishing Chinese industrial parks in India, expected to bring in investment from China, is also unlikely to be signed as a Chinese team is still scouting sites in India.
But other agreements on promoting culture and people-to-people contact between the neighbours are expected to be signed.