China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui, who played a key role in negotiations during the turbulent months of the Doklam stand-off and the subsequent rapprochement during the Wuhan informal summit, is set to return to Beijing as Vice Foreign minister next month after three years.
Luo, who was expected to be in India for another year, is being promoted to Vice ministerial level, which is equivalent to the Secretary-rank in the Indian government.
According to sources, he had even applied for extension of his diplomatic visa in March this year, but the Chinese government decided to promote him.
He is likely to be replaced by Sun Weidong, who has served in the Chinese embassy in Delhi as a political counsellor, and was ambassador to Pakistan.
Luo came to India in 2016, when Delhi’s attempts to get membership to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar did not fructify because of China’s opposition to both matters.
Tension between the two countries escalated in 2017, beginning with the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India’s boycott of the Belt and Road Forum and the two-and-a-half month standoff at the border between India, China and Bhutan, which was eventually resolved just in time for the BRICS summit in Xiamen.
However, in those 10 weeks, the diplomatic rhetoric went up considerably. Though efforts to list Azhar were once again blocked by Beijing in 2017, the situation improved with the informal summit in Wuhan in April 2018.
New Delhi and Beijing agreed to reset the relationship and kept the ties insulated from any major friction through 2018.
The ties were tested after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack and the subsequent face-off between India and Pakistan after the Balakot air strike.
When Beijing put a technical hold on Azhar’s listing on March 13, Luo played a crucial role in the subsequent change of the Chinese position on May 1.