China on Friday confirmed that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will visit Beijing on May 9 and 10 and hold talks with the Chinese leadership. The Foreign Ministry here said the visit would provide an opportunity for both countries to “boost the India China strategic cooperative partnership”.
Mr. Khurshid had said last week he intended to go ahead with his visit to Beijing as scheduled, despite the continuing stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
Three flag-meetings failed to diffuse the stand-off, which was sparked on April 15 when Chinese troops put up tents 19 km into what India sees as its territory. China has, however, maintained that its troops had not trespassed the LAC.
While officials say perceptions of the LAC are differing in the region, neither side had taken the step of setting up tents in a disputed area – a move seen as a provocation that has escalated tensions. At the flag meetings, the Chinese side was thought to have demanded the withdrawal of certain Indian fortifications in Ladakh as a condition to pull back to the status quo prior to the April 15 incursion.
Officials here, however, have refused to comment on the outcome of the flag-meetings, only saying that they believed that on-going consultations through the joint mechanism on border affairs would resolve the situation “soon”.
“The two sides are in communication through the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on boundary affairs… for a solution to the incident on the western section of the China-India border,” spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing on Friday.
“China stands ready to work with India to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” she said.
She added that both countries were “committed to resolving disputes, including the boundary ones, through peaceful negotiations and [to] try to ensure that this kind of dispute will not affect the development of the bilateral relations”.
On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said “the issue will be properly resolved soon through negotiation”, but called on the media to “give more time and be more patient”.
Ms. Hua said Mr. Khurshid’s two-day visit next week would see both sides have an “in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations as well as issues of common interests”, describing it as “one of the major high-level interactions between India and China this year”.
The visit is expected to lay the groundwork for the May 20 visit of new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi, expected to be his first after he took over in March.
Mr. Khurshid will hold talks with his counterpart Wang Yi, and he is also likely to meet Yang Jiechi, the State Councilor and top diplomat who earlier served as Foreign Minister before being promoted in March following the leadership transition. Mr. Yang has been tipped to succeed former State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who retired in March, as the Special Representative on the boundary negotiations with India. Mr. Dai had chaired all of the previous 15 rounds held since the mechanism was set up in 2003.
“We would like to make joint efforts with India to boost the India China strategic cooperative partnership through this visit,” Ms. Hua said.
Chinese and Indian officials on Friday also rubbished recent media reports that had suggested Mr. Khurshid's visit was in doubt because the Chinese side had not publicly confirmed it at press briefings earlier this week. The officials pointed out that China had long followed a practice of confirming visits only three or four days in advance. This was a practice the Foreign Ministry has followed for visits concerning all countries, including earlier visits from Indian officials to Beijing over the past few years.