In­dia, China high-level mech­a­nism to con­sol­i­date peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tact

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Nation - Rezaul H Laskar let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

Ex­ter­nal af­fairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chi­nese coun­ter­part Wang Yi will launch a high-level mech­a­nism to con­sol­i­date peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tacts at a meet­ing here on De­cem­ber 21, re­flect­ing the grow­ing warmth in bi­lat­eral ties since the in­for­mal Wuhan Sum­mit be­tween Prime Minister Naren­dra Modi and Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in April.

The in­au­gu­ral meet­ing of the high-level peo­ple-to-peo­ple and cul­tural ex­change mech­a­nism will cap a year marked by a flurry of con­tacts be­tween the top lead­er­ship of the two coun­tries. Modi and Xi have met four times this year, with the lat­est be­ing on the mar­gins of the G20 Sum­mit last month.

Diplo­mats fa­mil­iar with the plan­ning for the up­com­ing meet­ing said the new mech­a­nism will “stream­line and con­sol­i­date” con­tacts be­tween In­dia and China in fields such as ed­u­ca­tion, sports, cul­ture, film and tourism.

There are cur­rently over 40 dif­fer­ent groups work­ing in these fields and they will be brought un­der the mech­a­nism so that the top lead­er­ship of the two sides can give greater fo­cus and im­pe­tus to such con­tacts, they said.

The launch of the mech­a­nism is also a re­flec­tion of the im­por­tance at­tached by China to its ties with In­dia, they added. China cur­rently has a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism with the US, the Euro­pean Union, the UK, Rus­sia, France, In­done­sia and South Africa.

Be­sides del­e­ga­tion-level talks be­tween Swaraj and Wang, there will be a ma­jor cul­tural event fea­tur­ing per­for­mances by artistes from both coun­tries. Wang is also ex­pected to call on Modi dur­ing hisvisit.

The peo­ple cited above said Wang’s visit will also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to the two sides to have a look at work done since the in­for­mal sum­mit be­tween Modi and Xi at Wuhan in April, a meet­ing that helped push for­ward bi­lat­eral ties in the af­ter­math of last year’s mil­i­tary stand­off at Dok­lam near Sikkim border.

In­dia’s de­ci­sion to send its troops to Dok­lam (which China refers to as Donglang) to pre­vent the con­struc­tion of a road by Chi­nese forces in an area claimed by Bhutan trig­gered a 73-day face-off and took bi­lat­eral re­la­tions to a new low.

China has also reached out to In­dia to forge stronger eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion against the back­drop of its trade war with the US. In a mes­sage to par­tic­i­pants of a youth di­a­logue held here last month as part of the build-up to the launch of the new mech­a­nism, Modi had spo­ken of the need to build a “Great Wall of Trust and Co­op­er­a­tion” be­tween the two sides.

Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the plan­ning for the first meet­ing of the new mech­a­nism said sev­eral other events will be held along­side, in­clud­ing a think tank fo­rum, a me­dia fo­rum and a film fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing nine movies from each side. There are also pro­pos­als for ex­changes be­tween univer­sity chan­cel­lors and tourism ex­changes fo­cus­ing on Bud­dhist sites in both coun­tries.

“The to­tal num­ber of vis­i­tors be­tween the two sides ev­ery year is only one mil­lion, in­clud­ing 750,000 In­di­ans trav­el­ling to China and 250,000 Chi­nese trav­el­ling to In­dia. The fig­ure is very low and can be sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased,” a per­son said.

Dhruva Jais­hankar, a fel­low in for­eign pol­icy stud­ies at Brook­ings In­dia, said the trend of nor­mal­i­sa­tion of In­dia-China ties that be­gan about a year-and-half ago has con­tin­ued af­ter the Wuhan Sum­mit. “There have been at­tempts by Bei­jing to play up the pos­i­tives and this has been re­cip­ro­cated by New Delhi to bring a sem­blance of nor­malcy in ties,” he said.

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