Ahead of S Jaishankar’s visit, Beijing reaches out to bridge differences
Ambassador-designate Sun Weidong is hopeful that both nations have enormous potential for cooperation and especially after the Wuhan talks that thawed the relations.Updated: Jul 21, 2019 09:06 IST
Ahead of external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing next month to prepare the grounds for the second bilateral informal summit, China’s new envoy to India has said the two sides should narrow their differences and step up cooperation on the world stage.
Ambassador-designate Sun Weidong, set to arrive in New Delhi on July 21, told a small group of Indian journalists in Beijing on Friday the two countries should ensure no individual issue disrupts bilateral relations. China also wants India to stand with it “against unilateralism and protectionism”, he said.
Jaishankar is expected to travel to China in mid-August for discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and other officials to prepare for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on October 11, people familiar with developments in New Delhi and Beijing said. Though the date for the summit has been decided, the two sides are yet to agree on a venue, the people said.
Sun, a veteran diplomat who served as the envoy to Islamabad during 2013-17, said China attaches great importance to ties with India and the first informal summit at Wuhan last year had guided relations “back on track”. “We have to do more just than managing differences and take more initiative in shaping our relationship. I think we share very enormous potential for cooperation and our shared interests far outweigh our differences,” he said. “That’s why we need to focus on cooperation, make it a bigger pie and to narrow down the list of our problems and issues and not allow any individual case at a certain time to disrupt the development of our bilateral relations.” The Wuhan summit, held in the aftermath of the 2017 military face-off at Doklam, helped put relations back on an even keel and both sides are looking to the second summit to add greater heft to ties in areas ranging from security to trade and investment. Against the backdrop of its bruising trade war with the US, China has also been making efforts to woo India to its side. Calling for deepening of “practical cooperation” and strengthening of strategic synergy, Sun said: “We are both faced with challenges from unilateralism and protectionism. So we have to resolutely defend multilateralism and economic globalisation and stand against unilateralism and protectionism.”
This, he added, will ensure an international order that is “more just and rational so as to uphold the shared interests of developing countries”. Despite the momentum added to bilateral ties by the Wuhan summit, the two sides are grappling with several pressing issues, including the dragging border dispute, India’s concerns about a trade deficit of $58 billion, and US opposition to the involvement of Chinese firm Huawei in India’s planned 5G trials, the people cited above said.
Sun noted the two sides have more than 30 dialogue mechanisms to cover areas such as politics, economy, defence and people-to-people exchanges, and said China had taken several steps to address the trade imbalance. Bilateral trade had touched $95.5 billion last year.
“Starting from last year, China has started importing rice and sugar from India. We also accelerated the review and approval process for Indian pharmaceuticals. We are also willing to import other competitive Indian products,” said Sun, who is the second consecutive Chinese envoy to be sent to New Delhi after a stint in Islamabad, where he played a key role in implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “In recent times, Chinese businesses are supporting such initiatives as Made in India and Digital India. We are increasing investments in industrial parks as well as e-commerce in India. These investments have created many job opportunities for India.” Without referring to Huawei, Sun also said: “On the other side, we hope India can provide more fair and friendly facilitating business environment for Chinese businesses.”
Sun described the boundary dispute as an “issue left over from history” and said the two sides should manage their differences to ensure peace and tranquillity in border areas before they finally reach a solution.