TWO DAYS after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday confirmed that the Doklam issue was discussed at the bilateral meeting on December 11.
Swaraj and Wang noted the “challenge it had posed to the relationship” and expressed “satisfaction” that it was resolved with the disengagement of troops at the face-off site through concerted diplomatic communications.
Wang’s visit is the first by a top Chinese official to India after the 73-day Doklam standoff, and after China’s President Xi Jinping began his second five-year term. Wang had taken a more hawkish line during the Doklam crisis, while State Councillor Yang Jiechi had taken a more pragmatic approach, which ultimately led to its resolution after 10 weeks.
According to MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, “The peaceful resolution of the Doklam issue reflects political maturity on both sides. While agreeing with this, Sushma Swaraj reiterated that maintenance of peace in border areas is an essential prerequisite for the smooth development of bilateral relations.”
At the bilateral meeting, Swaraj underlined the importance of solving border disputes peacefully. “The need (is) for approaching our difference with due consideration to each other’s sensitivities and concerns. Both foreign ministers agreed to strengthen strategic communication at all levels, through the established dialogue mechanisms,” the statement read.
This comes a day after the Chinese foreign ministry said that Wang had said that the Doklam standoff had put “severe pressure” on India-China ties, although the issue was resolved through diplomatic means.
The bilateral ties went through a serious test after Indian border troops “illegally trespassed” into the Chinese territory in June, Wang was quoted by Chinese foreign ministry as having told Swaraj on Monday.
Wang and Swaraj held a bilateral meeting, before the 15th round of Russia-India-China Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on December 11, aimed at global and regional peace, security and stability.
The Doklam standoff ended on August 28 after Chinese troops stopped building a key road close to India’s ‘chicken neck’ corridor. India had objected to the construction, highlighting its security concerns. The road was being built by China in an area also claimed by Bhutan.
Besides Swaraj, Wang also called on President Ram Nath Kovind and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
After the December 11 meeting, Swaraj had said, “Foreign Minister Wang Yi and I agreed that we should further strengthen our mutual trust to develop a better understanding between the two parties. And it will be better to meet again, and without agenda, which will help us to expand our mutual understanding.” This was seen as a reach out to the more hardline sections of the Chinese establishment, since Wang had taken a more hawkish position.