PM in Bhutan, EAM in China next month
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister S Jaishankar will make crucial visits to Bhutan and China respectively next month to boost relations with both countries and identify new areas of cooperation, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing during August 11-12, yet to be officially announced, will see him co-chairing the second meeting of the high-level mechanism on cultural and people-to-people exchanges with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, two people said on condition of anonymity.
He will also hold talks to prepare the grounds for the second informal summit between Modi and President Xi Jinping in India on October 11, the people said.
The first informal summit at Wuhan last year helped reset bilateral ties after the 2017 military stand-off at Doklam, which took relations to a fresh low.
Modi will travel to Bhutan during August 17-18 for talks with Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, the people cited above said. Several agreements are expected to be signed during the visit, which will signal India’s commitment to its “neighbourhood first” policy, they said.
This will be Jaishankar’s first substantive engagement with the Chinese leadership since he assumed office last month and will offer an opportunity to engage on issues ranging from the long-standing border dispute to the India’s concerns about a trade deficit that has ballooned to $58 billion.
Modi’s trip to Bhutan will be the first since the 73-day face-off at Doklam, which was triggered when Indian troops opposed the construction of a road by Chinese forces on territory claimed by Thimphu. The stand-off sparked an intense debate in Bhutan about the need to balance the country’s relations with India and China.
China, which conducts relations with Bhutan through its embassy in Delhi, has also sought to increase its influence in the Himalayan nation.