Plan to hold talks on Central Asia, maritime security

India and China will seek to expand areas of bilateral dialogue when they open official engagements in the New Year on January 10 with a meeting between National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon and State Counsellor Dai Bingguo.

Mr. Dai, a high-ranking Chinese official, is Mr. Menon’s counterpart in talks on the boundary dispute. It is expected to be Mr. Dai’s last high-level official meeting with the Indian leadership before he lays down office in March.

Beijing and New Delhi have come away satisfied with the outcome of their interaction on regional issues and are now keen to extend it into new areas. “Last year, we extended our dialogue to Africa and West Asia. They were open and candid. This augurs well for future interactions,” said an official.

Both sides will now hold talks on Central Asia, a discussion that was scheduled last year but could not take place. More important, they intend holding talks on maritime security at a time when mainstream western commentary seems to hold Beijing culpable for disputes over territorial and maritime sovereignty in South China Sea.

The intention during the maritime dialogue will be to avoid narrowing down discussions to security issues and instead cover areas outside the ambit of the usual exchanges on maritime security to include shipping costs and transportation, issues on which both countries feel the playing field is tilted against emerging countries. The year will see both sides meeting again to discuss Africa and West Asia as well.

On the defence side, India and China seem to have got over the pause in exchanges after Beijing denied a visa to a high-ranking Indian Army Commander. Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma’s visit to Beijing towards the middle of the month is likely to pave the way for a large Army-level joint exercise, most probably before the year is out. The Defence Secretary’s visit for the annual defence dialogue is likely to result in Defence Minister A.K. Antony going to Beijing after the leadership transition takes place. As it is, Mr. Sharma will probably be the first Indian official to make contact with the People’s Liberation Army’s new Deputy Chief of General Staff designated to meet high-level officials from overseas.

Keywords: Indo-China ties

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