New Delhi: Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is expected to visit India later this month, people familiar with the developments told on Wednesday. Though neither side has finalised the dates, the visit, if agreed upon by both nations, may happen between March 24 and March 25.
If the visit goes as planned, it will be the first by a senior Chinese leader to India after the two countries locked horns in a dragging military standoff in Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since May 2020. The standoff, and a brutal clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020 that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops, took bilateral ties to an all-time low.
There was no official word from the external affairs ministry on Yi’s reported plans to visit India. The people cited above said on conditions of anonymity that the two sides are in touch, but the visit is yet to be fully finalised.
The people said that the proposal for the visit came from the Chinese side and there were plans for Yi, who holds the rank of state councillor, to also visit Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan as part of the trip to the region.
The Kathmandu Post reported on Tuesday that Yi is expected to visit Nepal from March 26-27 to hold talks with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Nepali counterpart Narayan Khadka. He is also expected to press for taking forward projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) while in Kathmandu, the report said.
It was not immediately clear whether Yi intends to visit India before or after his trip to Nepal. The people cited above said the Bhutanese side was not keen on a visit from the Chinese side.
Ever since the LAC standoff began, the top leadership of India and China have participated in several virtual meetings of groupings such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics), though bilateral meetings, either in-person or virtual, have been rare.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar met Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers of SCO in September 2020, and again in Dushanbe on the sidelines of a meeting of SCO heads of states in September 2021 to discuss ways to complete disengagement of frontline troops and de-escalation along the LAC.
Despite numerous rounds of diplomatic and military-level talks, both sides have so far only completed the disengagement of frontline troops on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso lake and at Gogra. They have been unable to make headway at several other friction points in Ladakh sector, and tens of thousands of troops have been deployed by each side through two winters.
Jaishankar has said that peace and tranquility on the LAC is essential for the restoration of bilateral ties. The Chinese side has repeatedly contended that the border issue should be delinked from the overall bilateral relationship.