Days before the government sent out a note asking “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” of the Centre and states to stay away from events planned for March-end and early April by the “Tibetan leadership in India” to mark the start of 60 years in exile of the Dalai Lama, South Block had informed Beijing about India’s move, sources have told The Indian Express.
This was conveyed through diplomatic channels as a mark of goodwill that was sought to be generated in Beijing, and set the ball rolling for a reset in ties with China, now culminating in an “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan on April 27-28.
“They were told about the letter on Dalai Lama before it was sent out,” sources said, adding that a similar letter had been sent on the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile, but this time the relations were far more strained than the earlier occasion.
As first reported by The Indian Express, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, in a letter to Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha on February 22, underlined that this is a “very sensitive time” for bilateral relations with China.
During Gokhale’s visit to Beijing on February 23, the idea of an informal summit is learnt to have first been brought up. “There was need for a reset… and the idea was floated so that a reset is possible at the highest level,” sources said.
Since Modi was scheduled to travel to Qingdao for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on June 9-10, South Block debated the pros and cons of the move to have a meeting before that.
On March 20, Modi congratulated Xi on being re-elected President, and told him that it “demonstrates that Xi enjoys the support of the whole Chinese nation”.
During that conversation, the idea of an informal summit was discussed and finalised. April was almost decided to be the month, and a venue outside Beijing, it was thought, would give it the colour of an informal summit. Officials were then told to work out the dates and venue.
Through the next one month, officials discussed and held meetings on the possible date and venue.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou came to Delhi on April 6, met counterpart Gokhale and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. In between, there were meetings on trans-border rivers, Nuclear Suppliers Group, the border dispute among other things.
Then, on April 13, Doval held talks with Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of Central Foreign Affairs Commission in Shanghai.
The dates and venue were set by then, and it was decided to let officials prepare for the visit. Indian officials were granted visas on April 20, and a team of Indian diplomats left for Wuhan over the weekend.
The final announcement was made after the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on April 22.
On Tuesday, a day after announcing the informal India-China summit, Swaraj met the top Chinese leadership including President Xi and Vice President Wang Qishan in Beijing.