As India and China move towards completing an “incident-free” year in 2018, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will meet visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday and hold bilateral discussions to “manage” their relationship in the forthcoming year, sources told The Indian Express.
Sources said that discussions are expected to centre around the theme of how the two countries can carry forward the momentum in the relationship in 2019.
Lessons learnt, divergences in ties cannot be ignored
As New Delhi and Beijing end 2018 with relative calmness in the relationship, it will try to revisit the lessons learnt in previous years, which saw tension building up in the ties. While both sides will try to maintain a positive momentum, they cannot shy away from key divergences in their ties - from Belt and Road Initiative, listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist or India’s entry into NSG. 2019 is a politically sensitive year for New Delhi, neverthelesss, both will have to work sincerely towards narrowing the trust deficit by working on the contentious issues.
The discussions, which will take place as the first High-Level Mechanism on People-to-People Exchanges meets, is crucial for India, since it faces elections in the early half of 2019.
“This meeting will be an effort to have a positive relationship in the coming months and year,” a source said. This is important since the Doklam incident had created strain in ties in 2017.
A day before the scheduled meeting, Swaraj said that with the regional and international role of India and China evolving, there are expectations from the two countries to lead Asia and usher in an Asian century. Talking about the visit at a media briefing, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said this was the first such meeting that would be co-chaired by Swaraj and Wang.
“Through quality deliberations in its last two editions, this forum has established itself as a useful framework for regular and continuous discussions between our academics and scholars, and has enabled them to provide structured advice and recommendations to governments of both sides,” Swaraj said in her message read out by Pranay Verma, Joint Secretary, MEA.
These discussions, held in the spirit of friendship and openness, have greatly contributed to enhancing mutual trust and understanding between our two countries, she said.
Wang, in his message read out by Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui, said the think tank forum has helped in deepening mutual understanding and enhancing mutual trust between the two countries. Luo said that following the Wuhan summit, relations were on the right track.