India - China hold low key, high level talks in Beijing

India - China hold low key, high level talks in Beijing

BEIJING - Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale has held across-the –board talks with top Chinese officials on advancing ties between India and China, which have encountered several points of friction.

Mr. Gokhale’s visit is also seen as part of preparations for talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the June summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao.

The Foreign Secretary met Polit Bureau member and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, as well as Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice Foreign Minister Mr. Kong Xuanyou.

Last year, Prime Minister Modi and President Xi had met in Xiamen on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in September — to revive ties that had been hit by the Doklam border crisis in summer. As a follow-up to these talks, Mr. Wang Yi and Mr. Yang had visited New Delhi in December.

“During the consultations, the two sides reviewed recent developments in bilateral relations, including high level exchanges, and discussed the agenda for bilateral engagement in the coming months,” an Indian embassy press statement said.

*Maldives tangle, NSG among issues*

India’s concerns regarding China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean have been rising, and have peaked after the pro-China President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5 in the island nation.

Without making any specific reference to Maldives, the statement said that the “two sides also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest”.

The statement noted the necessity of building on the “convergences” between the two countries. But is also stressed that Beijing and New Delhi should “address differences on the basis of mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns, interests and aspirations.” In the past, Indian officials have pointed to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) as an infringement of India’s sovereignty. China’s decision to come in the way of a UN ban on Masood Azhar, head of the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), as well as Beijing’s objections to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) emerged as additional points of abrasion in New Delhi-Beijing ties.

*New phase of talks?*

Prior to Mr. Gokhale’s visit, India’s Ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale had said in a late January interview that a new phase of talks should commence, where both sides show greater sensitivity and appreciation of each other’s core concerns. “In our conversations and discussions, it is important to talk to each other and not talk past each other. We must be sensitive to the other side's concerns. Our interaction must be based on equality and mutual benefit,” he told state-run tabloid *Global Times*.

In a separate statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Mr. Wang Yi as saying during his talks with Mr. Gokhale that Beijing “hopes that the Indian side will handle sensitive issues prudently and work with China to promote the sound development of China-India relations.”

The two sides also agreed to expedite various dialogue mechanisms in order to promote “multifaceted cooperation across diverse fields of India-China engagement."