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Ajit Doval meets China’s top diplomat in Shanghai ahead of SCO summit

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, right, talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi before their delegation-level meeting in New Delhi. File

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, right, talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi before their delegation-level meeting in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: AP

The National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has met China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Shanghai on Friday, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Qingdao for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organsiation (SCO).

Diplomatic sources clarified that the NSA’s meeting is purely bilateral and not part of an SCO arrangement. Later in April, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are visiting Beijing for meetings that are being held under the SCO framework.

Analysts say that talks between Mr. Doval and Mr. Yang are significant as the Chinese diplomat holds a higher rank in the official hierarchy than Wang Yi, who is the foreign minister and state councilor on foreign affairs. Mr. Yang is a member of the powerful 25-member Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

After the March session of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, Mr. Yang has been appointed as the director of the newly formed Central Foreign Affairs Commission (CFAC).

The Hindu had earlier reported that a thorough revamp of the foreign policy architecture was currently underway during the NPC session. The powerful international department of the CPC and the Party’s Leading Group on Foreign Affairs, which reports directly to President Xi were expected to merge, with Mr. Yang as the head.

Defusing the Doklam crisis

Mr. Doval and Mr. Yang had earlier played a major role, including stating the bottom lines for mutual withdrawal, in defusing the Doklam crisis in the Sikkim sector during the preparatory meeting on the BRICS summit that was held in Xiamen in September.

Mr. Yang then in his capacity as state councilor—a position now held by foreign minister Wang—had visited India in December to energise the “Xiamen process” of rebooting ties between India and China, following the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had then held a follow-on meeting in Beijing in February. “Through Mr. Gokhale’s visit, we wanted to demonstrate that we were as keen as China in rebuilding post-Doklam ties,” diplomatic sources told The Hindu.Mr. Doval’s visit precedes the India-China Strategic Economic dialogue that begins in Beijing on Saturday between the NITI Ayog and the China’s top planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Ahead of Mr. Doval’s visit foreign minister Wang, during his annual March 8 press conference, had praised the two leaderships for demonstrating “strategic vision” in tackling the Doklam crisis. “If the press conference is any indicator, Mr. Wang, who has also been elevated to the post of State Councilor, has already set the tone for a new round of positive engagement with India,” the sources said.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2020 5:06:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/ajit-doval-meets-chinas-top-diplomat-in-shanghai-ahead-of-sco-summit/article23521838.ece

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