In meeting with CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, Li praises role of Indian Left parties for ‘safeguarding friendship’

Ahead of key visits by top Indian officials in coming days, China’s Vice-President Li Yuanchao on Wednesday said the new Chinese leadership wanted both countries to push their strategic ties to a higher level.

Mr. Li, who sits on the 25-member Politburo, made the comments to a visiting delegation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), led by General Secretary Prakash Karat.

The Chinese Vice-President told the delegation he was optimistic about the future of bilateral ties. During talks, he also called on the visiting CPI (M) delegation to “strengthen contact” with the Communist Party of China, even as he praised “left wing parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [for playing] an important role in safeguarding China-India friendship”.

Mr. Li is seen as a reform-minded, key figure in the next line of leadership that will be promoted in 2017, when five of the seven members of the current Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) will retire. President Xi Jinping voiced his backing for Mr. Li to take a place alongside him and Premier Li Keqiang on the next PBSC by choosing him as his Vice-President despite some opposition from retired leaders. Unusually, 80 dissenting votes were cast against Mr. Li when his appointment as Vice-President was formalised at the National People’s Congress session in March.

Mr. Li said on Monday India and China would “need to work hard to push their strategic cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity to a higher level,” the State-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

He said he saw “new progress” in ties with India “since the beginning of the year,” suggesting that the new leadership had taken ties forward.

However, the three-week-long stand-off in Depsang, sparked by a Chinese incursion on April 15, has dampened expectations for ties in the coming year. While Chinese officials say the peaceful resolution of the stand-off had underscored the effectiveness of mechanisms in place, officials in India acknowledge that the Depsang incident has left considerable mistrust.

Both sides will have the opportunity to address this issue in coming weeks, with National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon expected to travel to China, followed by a visit by Defence Minister A.K. Antony expected to take place between July 4 and 7.