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Sino-India contacts set to resume post-transition in CPC

By K J M Varma
November 15, 2012 17:26 IST
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As China's ruling CPC appointed 'fifth generation' leaders headed by Xi Jinping, high-level Sino-India contacts are set to resume this month starting with the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which would be followed by a likely visit of National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon in Beijing.

The first contact post-transition would be taking place between Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his Chinese counterpart and Chief of China's National Development Reforms Commission (NDRC) Zhang Ping on November 26.

The meeting between the two, both influential officials in their respective administrations, was expected to go beyond issues involving the Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) and focus on the scope of the bilateral relationship in the light of the leadership change in Beijing.

The SED dialogue is expected to be followed by the visit of Menon, even though there is no official announcement about it so far.

Officials here are tight-lipped about the expected visit of Menon, who had served as the Indian Ambassador to China earlier and is regarded highly by the Chinese leadership. His visit could kick off a new momentum in the relations.

Menon's counterpart in the Special Representative-level talks to resolve the border issue, Dai Bingguo, too is slated to retire as the administration headed by outgoing President

Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao would be relinquishing their posts by March next year.

71-year-old Dai, who holds the designation of State Councilor, is the longest-serving Chinese diplomat to have held talks with various administrations in India since 2003.

Speculation is rife about who would succeed him, and the present Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is one of the contenders.

Incidentally, both Xi and the number two leader Li Keqiang, 57, who is tipped to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao, have not visited India in the recent years even though they were part of the high-power standing committee of the outgoing leadership.

Xi played a key role in hosting various meetings during former President Pratibha Patil's China visit in 2010, while former External Affairs Minister S M Krishna met Li during his visit this year.

Indian officials say that as vice president and vice premier respectively in the outgoing administration, both Xi and Li were very much part of the India-China rapprochement in the past decade, which made progress under the Hu-Wen leadership with Beijing bringing about "strategic equilibrium" in China's pro-Pakistan policy of the past.

Both Hu and Wen had also not visited India before they took power in 2002.

Barring the problem relating to China's move to issue stapled visas in 2009 to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, a decision it abandoned following India's objections, the relations were on the upswing in recent years with several meetings taking place between the top leaderships of both the countries at various fora.

Officials from both sides informally speak of the continuity in the policy of improvement of ties.

Some Chinese strategists spoke of Beijing scripting a new Look West Policy (West of China) to improve relations with India and countries in South and West Asia to counter US push into the region.

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K J M Varma in Beijing
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