New Delhi, June 8: China on Sunday made contact with the new Indian government as its Foreign Minister Wang Yi, special envoy of President Xi Jinping, held talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during which “all issues of significance” were on the table, including the unsettled border, Tibet and stapled visas besides a boost in trade ties.
The over three-hour-long talks between the two sides saw the Indian side speak in a mix of Hindi and English aided by official translators, a trend set in motion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held bilateral talks in Hindi and English with South Asian leaders a day after his swearing-in.
Wang, who flew down here earlier in the morning, held talks with Sushma Swaraj at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan, after which he went to visit the nearby National Museum. The entire venue was barricaded by police in the wake of Tibetan protesters staging a protest in the capital against the Chinese minister’s visit.
The Tibetans have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise the Tibet issue during his talks with Wang on Monday. Wang’s meeting came even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during an event here that “if India has to compete with China, the focus should be on skill, scale and speed”.
The Chinese minister’s visit comes a fortnight after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called up Modi to congratulate him, which conveys “a flavour of the keenness with which both our leaderships are engaging with each other”, said external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
He described the talks between the two ministers as “cordial and useful, comprehensive covering all important issues, substantive and productive”. Wang said the “new Indian government had injected new vitality into an ancient civilisation”. He said the international community was “closely following developments in India” and that “the Chinese and Indian dreams have a lot of commonalities”.
“China welcomes and supports the development of India and is ready to engage with the new government of India,” Akbaruddin quoted Wang as saying during his meeting. During the talks, “all issue of significance were raised in a frank and cordial manner”, the spokesperson said.
Asked whether the Tibetan and stapled visas issues and other niggling matters were raised, the spokesperson said: “All issues of perennial nature were discussed in a cordial and forthright manner and were understood very clearly by the interlocutors on the other side.” Both ministers focused a significant part of their talks on boosting trade ties.
According to the spokesperson, Wang and Sushma Swaraj held “fairly long and detailed discussion on economic issues” which included specific projects, the trajectory of economic ties, the potential for tapping opportunities as well as issues that may impede the speeding up of the intensity of economic ties. Both leaders felt there is tremendous potential for growth of economic ties.
Bilateral trade is heavily tilted in China’s favour, an issue that India has time and again raised with Beijing. Last year, India’s exports to China comprised only $14.87 billion of the total bilateral trade of $59.24 billion. Ahead of Wang’s visit, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was briefed by India’s Ambassador in China, Ashok Kantha, on the issues and possibilities in bilateral trade.
Wang and Sushma Swaraj during their talks also agreed to ramp up their interactions substantially over the next few months — including at bilateral and multi-lateral fora, the spokesperson said. Premier Li has invited Modi to China, while President Xi Jinping is to visit India in September.
The top leaders of two countries, including the prime ministers, presidents and vice presidents, and foreign ministers, would be meeting over the next few months till the end of the year at a number of fora, the spokesperson added. Dates for the meeting of the special representatives on the boundary issue were not raised at the talks.
He said Sushma Swaraj asked for additional routes for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra and for increasing the number of pilgrims who may visit Kailash every year. She also thanked the Chinese foreign minister for Beijing having kept the cost of the pilgrimage on their side constant over the last few years.