A month into the border standoff between India and China at the tri-junction with Bhutan, Pakistan’s envoy Abdul Basit has waded into the Doklam row. The High Commissioner is learnt to have met the Chinese and Bhutanese envoys in New Delhi this week. While it is not unusual for the envoys to meet in New Delhi, the timing of these meetings has raised eyebrows in South Block.
The meeting between Basit, who is likely to leave for Islamabad soon, and Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui took place Wednesday, sources said. The meeting was at the request of Basit. A day later, on Thursday, the Pakistan High Commissioner met Bhutan’s ambassador Major General Vetsop Namgyel. This meeting too was at Basit’s request.
While all three are tightlipped on the meetings, one of them told The Indian Express Friday, “What (is the) issue? Diplomats meet routinely.” Asked if the Doklam issue was discussed at the meeting, he said, “We discuss all issues.”
These meetings have been noticed by South Block, which is keeping a close watch on the developments within the diplomatic circuit. South Block too witnessed a major change on its China desk. The new joint secretary, in charge of China, is Pranay Verma. He took charge Friday as head of the East Asia division Friday, and comes with a formidable reputation on China.
He was India’s Chinese interpreter for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee between 2000 and 2004 — since he was the best in his batch in Mandarin speech and writing. Verma, who replaced Pradeep Rawat, has served in the Indian mission in Hong Kong (1996-98), Beijing (2000-2004), and was Deputy Secretary in the MEA (looking after India’s relations with China and East Asia). He is expected to lead India’s diplomatic negotiations.
He had been in the Department of Atomic Energy as Joint Secretary (External Relations) since October 2014. Rawat leaves for Indonesia as India’s envoy.