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India, China try to reset ties ahead of Modi’s SCO trip

BY INDRANI BAGCHI
NEW DELHI: India and China are preparing for a series of high-level interactions leading up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June and both sides are expected to tone down some of the hardline approaches that have characterised bilateral relations in the past few months.
Teams of Indian and Chinese experts on transborder rivers will meet in Hangzhou between March 26 and March 30 to discuss sharing of information. During the Doklam stand-off last year, China had refused to share hydrological data. India has been concerned at China’s dam-building exercise on the Brahmaputra.
From April 13-15, China’s National Development and Reform Commission will hold a strategic and economic dialogue with India’s Niti Aayog. The last such dialogue was held in 2016. This will be followed by a meeting of SCO foreign ministers in Beijing at the end of April.
The series of interactions will culminate with the PM’s visit to Qingdao for the SCO summit on June 9. Post-Doklam, India and China are trying to put the pieces together.
This was most evident with foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale writing a note to government officials to desist from attending events by the Dalai Lama as bilateral relations are in a “sensitive” zone. The note, leaked to the media, gave the impression that India has decided to roll back engagements with the Tibetan spiritual leader. However, a foreign ministry statement on Friday said India’s position on the Dalai Lama is “clear and consistent”. “He is a revered religious leader and deeply respected by the people of India.
There is no change in that position. His Holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India,” it said. Asked for his assessment of the leaked note, China analyst Claude Arpi said, “There is no doubt that the coming months will be hot (especially when the passes in the central and eastern sectors open). But suppose India had bent backwards in Doklam, would the Chinese have been ‘nicer’ and supported a seat for India in the UN Security Council? The answer is no. Bending backwards will not help Delhi.”
In February, Gokhale had travelled to Beijing for his first meetings with the Chinese leadership in his current position. The schedule of meetings for the coming months were firmed up after he met both Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and special representative Yang Jiechi. Both Wang and Yang had visited India after Doklam. Wang credited the resolution of the Doklam crisis to the “mature” leadership of both countries. After his most recent meeting with Gokhale, Wang continued to ask India to be “prudent”.
The official readout of the meeting has him telling Gokhale that “the two sides should increase strategic mutual trust and accelerate common development based on the political consensus of the leaders of the two countries. It is hoped that India will handle sensitive issues with prudence and work toward the same goal of promoting healthy development of China-India relations”.
The Times Of India

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