After sealing it with Obama, Modi looks to soothe China

modixiNEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to travel to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping before he completes one year in office on May 26.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is visiting China on January 31 to meet her counterpart Wang Yi for bilateral talks and will return on February 3.

National security advisor Ajit Doval, who is also India’s Special Representative for Boundary Talks, is planning to travel to China to meet his counterpart State Councillor Yang Jiechi in March for round 18 of talks to resolve the vexed border dispute.

“The dates for PM visit will be finalised by March with President Xi keen to host him in his hometown Xian. PM Modi has also expressed his desire to undertake the Mansarovar yatra through new Nathu La land route before travelling to Beijing,” said a senior Indian diplomat.

During the bilateral talks in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told US President Barack Obama that New Delhi would protect its security interests on a priority basis but also closely cooperate with Beijing on economic and global issues.

Modi also told President Obama that India was pursuing the same China policy as US as the latter was also economically engaging Beijing. This was a clear signal that India would not like to be used by any third power against China.

Although much has been read into India-US Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, senior Indian officials say that it is a “ strategic misinterpretation” to perceive this document as Japan-Australia-US-India alliance against China.

“ Prime Minister Modi told President Obama as ASEAN countries were comfortable with New Delhi and US with Japan and Australia, the two could join hands for maritime security in the region,” said a Indian diplomat.

With President Obama and PM Modi discussing China for nearly an hour during the bilateral talks at Hyderabad house, the Indian leader conveyed that boundary dispute with Beijing was a security concern that need to be sorted out.

But at the same time, PM Modi apparently conveyed to President Obama, India was looking towards a high degree of engagement on economic,  infrastructure development and climate change with China.

“PM Modi was balanced in his approach towards China in talks with President Obama and told him that even US was engaging China on the economic front in spite of its own security concerns vis-à-vis Beijing,” said an Indian diplomat.

Although the 18th round of Special Representative talks are expected to be held in March, NSA Ajit Doval wants to focus on the boundary dispute and will push for at least the two sides exchanging maps of the western sector (Aksai Chin) so that frequent face-offs between Indian and Chinese armies are avoided.  – From The Hindustan Times

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