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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

India committed to ties but China needs to address problems: S Jaishankar

India and China are holding bilateral strategic dialogue in Beijing during which Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar is participating.

world Updated: Mar 23, 2017 15:35 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar met  Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi on in Beijing, Feb 21, 2017.
India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar met Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi on in Beijing, Feb 21, 2017.(HT Photo )

India said on Tuesday it is committed to maintaining steady relations with China despite the current diplomatic chill and deep differences on a host of issues such as Beijing’s blocking of New Delhi’s efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar proscribed at the UN.

A day ahead of a new round of the bilateral strategic dialogue, foreign secretary S Jaishankar told state councillor Yang Jiechi that he brought with him “a very strong sense of commitment to maintaining our relationship”. 

Jaishankar is expected to deliver a strong message from the Indian leadership to China about problems plaguing bilateral ties, especially Beijing’s stance on terror-related issues, during the key meeting on Wednesday. 

The foreign secretary met Yang, China’s top diplomat and the special representative for Sino-India border talks, at Zhongnanhai, a former imperial garden that is now the seat of power, on Tuesday evening. Jaishankar will participate in the strategic dialogue with China's executive vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui and there is likely to be a one-on-one meeting with foreign minister Wang Yi on Wednesday. 

Jaishankar is expected to seek a clarification from China on the issue of Azhar – especially after Beijing said last week that New Delhi had not furnished “solid evidence” against the JeM chief who has been blamed for several attacks in India. 

In 2016, China twice put a technical hold on India's application to get Azhar list by the UN’s al-Qaeda and Islamic State committee, using its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council. Earlier this year, China again put a technical hold on a US proposal to get Azhar listed. 

Besides Azhar, Jaishankar is likely to discuss China’s decision, along with other countries, to block India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-member bloc that controls nuclear commerce. 

Jaishankar’s focus during the visit was made clear by what he told the nationalistic and state-run tabloid Global Times in an interview in New Delhi last week. 

“For us, there are questions of sovereignty which need to be addressed first,” he told the newspaper. “Counter-terrorism is one area in which China and India should make special efforts together.”

“China has a very strong, principled position on counter-terrorism. We hope the position China already has will be further implemented,” he said, adding that discussions on the matter were ongoing with China. 

During Tuesday’s meeting with Yang, Jaishankar said the “reconstituted strategic dialogue is not just a meeting between me and my counterpart, it is preceded by consultations”. 

Yang said, despite some problems, 2016 was a positive year. 

“We truly hope that in the year ahead our two countries can enhance our exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation so that we can jointly contribute more to the peace, stability and development of our region and the world at large and deliver more benefits to our two countries and the whole world,” he said. 

It remains to be seen how much is achieved in the strategic dialogue. There is little doubt – despite Yang’s statement – that Sino-India relations nosedived last year. 

Gone were the heady days of 2014 and 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping went on diplomatic overdrive in Ahmedabad and Xian in central China. October 2015, when India signed in for the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), seems a long time ago. 

As a Chinese academic, who did not want to be named, put it: “The honeymoon period is over.”

Experts feel the Azhar problem is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. “India must directly speak to Pakistan about it,” said the academic, adding China is unlikely to ditch Pakistan on this issue. 

There are positive voices as well. 

“It is particularly encouraging that the leaderships of China and India are aware of the important significance of a stable China-India relationship, having the consensus for an improved relationship between the two countries,” Guo Suiyuan, South Asia expert at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told Hindustan Times. 

“The strategic dialogue may open a new channel for improving understanding. It is much needed at this point of time for the healthy development of China-India relationship,” Guo said.