External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left for her six-day China and Mongolia tour on Saturday. The Union minister boarded a special plane from New Delhi which will take her to Beijing where she will meet her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
Swaraj will arrive in Beijing later today and will hold talks with Yi on 22 April. The visit is being seen as preparation of the ground ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s possible China trip in May.
In the four days that she will be spending in China, the EAM is expected to “reset” ties between New Delhi and Beijing that were strained by the 2017 Doklam crisis.
The military standoff that lasted 73 days brought the ties to a nadir and alarmed many of a repeat of the 1962 war.
A host of other issues, including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China’s repeated blocking of India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), are on the cards.
China has expressed hopes from the visit. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Swaraj’s visit will “further enhance political trust between the two countries and elevate the China-India strategic cooperation partnership”.
Stating that there is a “positive momentum” in bilateral ties this year, Beijing expressed its willingness to work with the Indian side to maintain high-level exchanges, expand practical cooperation, properly manage disputes and move forward bilateral ties.
Swaraj is also likely to put on table China’s opposition to efforts to list Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN. Azhar’s terror group carried out numerous strikes against India including the Pathankot terror attack and the recent Sunjuwan attack, both on military establishments.
Swaraj will leave for Mongolia from China on 25 April for a two-day visit. Not only will that be her first to the landlocked country, it will be the first visit to the country by an Indian foreign minister in 42 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Mongolia in May 2015.
The EAM will co-chair the 6th round of India-Mongolia Joint Consultative Committee (IMJCC) meeting with her Mongolian counterpart Tsogtbaatar. She will also address a gathering commemorating the birth anniversary of Late Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a revered Buddhist leader and monk from Ladakh who was also the longest serving Ambassador of India to Mongolia, in Ulaanbaatar.
Still unconfirmed, PM Modi’s visit and a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, after he became the ‘eternal president’, might help in re-strengthening of the ties between the two economic giants of Asia.
Reports say that the meeting might take place in central or southern China.
Modi is scheduled to visit Qingdao in north-eastern China, near the Korean peninsula, in June for the 2018 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. Pakistan is one of the member states in the eight-nation SCO. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia have an observer status.