Bambawale takes over as Beijing ambassador, resetting post-Doklam ties tops agenda
Gautam H Bambawale comes to Beijing after serving as the high commissioner to Pakistan and before that as the envoy to Bhutan.india Updated: Dec 05, 2017 21:34 IST
The new Indian envoy Gautam H Bambawale on Tuesday presented his credentials to President Xi Jinping at a ceremony to welcome newly appointed ambassadors to the People’s Republic of China.
Bambawale has his task cut out as the two Asian giants look to mend ties and lower the mistrust following the Doklam standoff, which defence experts and think tanks have warned could be the new normal for troubled Sino-India ties.
A 1984-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, Bambawale has served in China before. He was the first consul general at the Indian consulate in Guangzhou, a trade and business hub in southern China with a sizeable Indian community, between 2007 and 2009.
He comes to Beijing after serving as the high commissioner to Pakistan and before that as the envoy to Bhutan; both countries figure prominently in the Sino-India ties.
While Pakistan is China’s “iron-clad friend”, Bhutan doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Beijing and is the only country, besides India, to have an unresolved land border with China.
Early this year, Indian and Chinese troops were in two-month-long standoff in the Doklam plateau, claimed by both Bhutan and China.
The two countries managed to defuse the situation that had the potential to trigger a flare-up but they need to hit the refresh button on border issues to avoid a repeat.
Bambawale has also served as joint secretary (east Asia) in the ministry of external affairs, a position that is increasingly crucial with India’s increased focus on strengthening ties with (besides China) South Korea, Japan and Asean countries.
The new Indian envoy can expect a busy time ahead as both sides continue protracted negotiations to resolve the festering border dispute.
Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi is expected in India in a few weeks for the 20th round of talks under the special representatives’ mechanism put in place for better and effective border management.
Foreign minister Wang Yi is scheduled to visit India next week for the Russia-India-China foreign ministers’ dialogue.
In the coming months, Bambawale will also have to diplomatically wrestle Chinese inflexibility on at least two issues that have tested the ties – Beijing blocking India’s efforts to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist by the UN and China thwarting India’s repeated bids to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.