A timely shot in the arm for Sino-Indian ties
Indians keenly followed the wide coverage given by the Chinese media to the general elections and the subsequent leadership change in India. The importance that the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attaches to China can be gauged from the fact that Premier Li Keqiang was the first head of government with whom he talked over the phone after assuming office. During the conversation the two leaders shared their thoughts and ideas, which have a bearing on bilateral relations, and Li invited Modi to visit China later this year.
It is against this backdrop that India’s Vice-President Hamid Ansari is visiting China from June 26 to 30. Ansari will participate in the 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (known as the Panchsheel Treaty in India), hold discussions with his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao, and call on President Xi Jinping during his five-day visit. India and China, together with Myanmar, had enunciated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in 1954.
The position of the vice-president is only second to that of the president in the protocol of India’s official hierarchy. It is in this capacity that Ansari, who participated in the launch of the India-China Year of Friendly Exchanges in New Delhi on Feb 11, is attending the Panchsheel events in Beijing on June 28-29.
It augurs well that within a month of the formation of the new government in India, Beijing and New Delhi have exchanged important visits.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited New Delhi as the special envoy of President Xi earlier this month to convey the greetings of Chinese leaders and extend invitation to Indian leaders to participate in the Panchsheel’s commemorative events in Beijing.
During his visit to India Wang met with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Modi and Sushma Swaraj (foreign minister), and held frank but cordial discussions with Indian officials on all significant issues. As a result, the two sides felt that there is huge untapped potential for the growth of bilateral trade.
Welcoming Wang, Mukherjee said, “India and China have excellent relations”, and the Chinese foreign minister’s visit would further strengthen that.
Mukherjee highlighted the role the Chinese and Indian economies have played in the revival of the world economy and referred to the cooperation between the two countries on international platforms such as the G20, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Besides, the Indian president hoped the two countries would discover new dimensions in their strategic cooperative partnership and move from strength to strength.
Wang describedMukherjee “as an old friend of China who has made important contribution to the growth of relations between the two countries”.
Incidentally, Mukherjee visited China as India’s defense minister in 2006 when the two sides signed an agreement, which advocated regular exchanges between leaders and officials of the two countries’ defense ministries and armed forces.
Ansari’s visit to China is a prelude to some important interactions between the leaderships of the two countries, the most important of which is the much anticipated visit by President Xi to India sometime later this year.
But before that, Xi andModi are likely to have a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, next month.
Premier Li, too, is expected to have a separate meeting withModi on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, in November.
It looks like busy and fruitful times lie ahead for China and India on the diplomatic front. The author is a senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.