India, China look to ASEAN summit to improve ties after Doklam stand-off

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Manila to chart the future course of ties and increase the economic co-operation between the two countries, officials in South Block said. The meeting is a clear indication that both countries want to put Doklam – the face-off between India and China on the Doklam plateau – behind them, the officials added, asking not to be identified.

The timing for the meeting is still being worked out, the officials said. Prime Minister Modi reaches Manila on November 12 and returns on November 14; he is scheduled to meet US president Donald Trump on November 13.

With the 19th National Congress of Communist Party of China over last month, the diplomatic message from Beijing, after President Xi Jinping was elected for the second term, is that India is an important neighbour and should be accorded priority; New Delhi also wants to move ahead and bring bilateral ties back on track, the officials said.

That both sides have decided to bury Doklam is evident from the series of bilateral engagements after the Modi-Li meeting. The officials said that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs will meet in Beijing later this month with the objective of setting up of a hotline between the headquarters of the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA . The hotline will ensure that local commanders on the border do not indulge in any unilateral action.

The dates for a trilateral Russia-India-China Ministerial dialogue in New Delhi have been fixed for December 11 with focus on stabilization of Afghanistan and deepening of trilateral cooperation. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi will meet Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to ensure that three biggest Asian powers are on the same page on big global issues like terrorism, trade, West Asia and Afghanistan, the officials said.

Chinese diplomatic sources based in New Delhi say that Prime Minister Modi has a strong vision for ties with Beijing dating back to his days as Gujarat chief minister. According to them, India should have more engagement with China on the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), bilateral trade, and development of industrial parks in India. They added that the Chinese opposition to the UN resolution calling for the designation of Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed emir Masood Azhar as a global terrorist is an on-going chapter, hinting that Beijing’s position may not be final.

Finally, the annual Special Representative Dialogue on border resolution between the two countries is expected to take place in New Delhi after the trilateral ministerial meeting with State Councillor Yang Jiechi meeting National Security Advisor Ajit Doval for the 20th round of talks to maintain peace and tranquility on the border.

The officials said that Doklam will not be discussed at the Special Representative Dialogue. Indications are that both sides have decided against any unilateral action on the 3,488 kilometer border and are all for strengthening the confidence building mechanism between the two biggest armies of the world.

By: HT

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