Sushma Swaraj to meet Chinese FM Wang Yi for key talks before Modi visit
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will hold key talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers’ meet in Beijing over the coming weekend.
Swaraj’s meeting with Wang – recently elevated to the post of state councillor, among the top diplomatic positions in China’s hierarchy – will culminate her two-day visit to Beijing beginning on Saturday.
It could not be ascertained whether Swaraj will also interact with her Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Asif, who is expected to be present at the ministerial meet. She is likely to meet her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Swaraj will be in China on April 22 and 23 and in Mongolia during April 24-25.
Her visit to Beijing – the first after Wang’s promotion - is being seen as a crucial component of efforts by the two neighbours to reset ties following a considerable cooling of their relationship during and in the aftermath of last year’s military standoff at Doklam near the Sikkim border.
Besides laying the groundwork for the SCO Summit in the coastal city of Qingdao in June, to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Swaraj and Wang are expected to take stock of bilateral ties.
Old and new differences – like the Nuclear Suppliers Group impasse and India’s deep unease with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – are some of the topics that could come up for discussion.
Swaraj last came to Beijing in February 2015, when she also had an audience with President Xi Jinping.
Wang and Swaraj are known to have a warm one-on-one connect but neither is known to shy away from bringing up strategic concerns. The two last met when Wang was in New Delhi in December for the India-China-Russia trilateral meet.
Wang had then blamed India for the Doklam standoff and asked New Delhi to learn lessons from it. The faceoff was a “severe test” for bilateral ties, he had then said.
“The Dong Lang (Doklam) incident caused by the Indian border troops’ illegal crossing of the China-India boundary into the Chinese territory was a severe test for bilateral relations,” Wang told Swaraj in December.
“The incident was ultimately settled by peaceful means through diplomatic measures, which embodies that China-India relations are becoming increasingly mature. However, lessons should be learned to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” he told Swaraj.
During her stay in Beijing, Swaraj will also interact with foreign ministers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted to the China-led SCO in 2017.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will also visit China next week to attend the SCO defence ministers’ meet.