Beijing: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will travel to Delhi in December to attend the Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers’ trilateral meeting, in what could be the first high-level Sino-India dialogue after President Xi Jinping commenced his second term.
Mr. Wang will visit Delhi to attend the RIC meeting and hold talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and meet India’s top leadership, Chinese official sources told PTI in Beijing when inquired about commencement of India-China dialogue to improve bilateral ties as President Xi began his second term.
The once-in-a-five-year Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) which concluded in Beijing last week endorsed a second five-year term for 64-year-old Xi and elected a new set of leaders to rule the country for the next five years.
While no dates were mentioned for Mr. Wang’s visit, officials said he will attend the RIC meeting in December, which will also provide an opportunity for talks on bilateral ties in the aftermath of the 73-day standoff at Doklam which ended on August 28.
Last month, Mr. Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit in Chinese port city Xiamen and agreed to move forward.
Media reports previously said the RIC meeting was planned for April this year but Mr. Wang did not confirm dates in the backdrop of China’s protests over the Dalai Lama visiting Arunachal Pradesh in the same month.
Mr. Wang’s visit to Delhi in December is regarded significant as it would set tone for Mr. Xi’s policy approach to India in his second term.
Since Mr. Xi took over in late 2012, the bilateral relations were bogged down over his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which includes the controversial $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
India had protested with China over CPEC as it traversed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and boycotted the high-profile Belt and Road Forum (BRF) held by China in May.
Chinese officials say the BRI, under which China has invested $560 billion overseas, has assumed new significance as it has been included in the CPC Constitution during its Congress.
In an apparent attempt to push BRI on the top of China’s diplomatic agenda, its top diplomat Yang Jiechi, 67, has been elevated to the new Politburo, a high-ranking body of the CPC though he was due to retire early next year.
Mr. Yang was the Special Representative of the India-China border talks along with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
In view of Mr. Yang’s elevation, Mr. Wang may succeed him as State Councillor in March next year and takeover as the top diplomat, according to the speculation.
In Chinese diplomatic hierarchy, state councillor has higher rank than the Foreign Minister.
Besides the BRI, the Doklam standoff has dented the ties.
Mr. Wang’s visit also takes place after U.S. President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy which warrants Pakistan, China’s close ally, to dismantle the terror safe havens on its soil.
Chinese officials say Mr. Trump’s visit in Beijing on November 8 may provide more clarity to his policy towards the region.
However, analysts say while the chances of a conflict between India and China during Mr. Xi’s tenure is low, it should brace for a severe competition as he is going to give a big push for his plan to move China to the centre stage of the world.
“He is not secretive. In his political report to the Congress he said that China is moving to the centre stage of the world. You don’t have to wonder anymore because he is telling you that China is moving to the centre of the world,” said Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an American scholar who is based in China and who moved closely with Chinese leaders and scholars.
It also means that India should match up to China, he said. “India needs to do its own thing and continue its growth rates and modernisation and infrastructure, freeing up its markets,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it is a battle¸” but India has to face up to the competition from China, he added.