The View from India | The significance of Blinken’s China visit

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Updated - June 20, 2023 03:44 pm IST

Published - June 19, 2023 05:31 pm IST

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken | Photo Credit: AP

(This article forms a part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken started his much-awaited China visit on Sunday, seeking to cool tensions between the two great powers. Mr. Blinken was scheduled to travel to China in January, in the first Secretary-level visit since 2018, but that trip was postponed after a Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over continental America. Tensions were high between the U.S. and China, particularly after the then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by China, in August last year. Earlier this month, the U.S. had sought Defence Minister–level talks between the two countries on the sidelines of the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore. But China said no to the talks as its Defence Minister Li Shangfu faced American sanctions. At the Shangri-La dialogue, Mr. Li and his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin shook hands but did not hold talks. There were also two incidents in recent weeks where American and Chinese jets and destroyers came dangerously close to each other over the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait. Against this backdrop, Mr. Blinken’s visit assumes great significance.

The focus of the visit was on stabilising the great power relationship even if there is no breakthrough on contentious issues, from Taiwan and South China Sea to Russia’s war in Ukraine and trade disputes. After holding talks for several hours with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Mr. Blinken said both sides “discussed how we can responsibly manage the relationship between our two countries through open channels of communication”. The Chinese side also emphasised managing ties despite differences. “Both sides agreed to jointly implement the important common understandings reached by the two Presidents in Bali, effectively manage differences, and advance dialogue, exchanges and cooperation,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, reports Ananth Krishnan. In Beijing, Mr. Blinken also held talks with Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, and President Xi Jinping.

African peace mission

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a meeting with a delegation of African leaders and senior officials in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a meeting with a delegation of African leaders and senior officials in St. Petersburg, Russia. | Photo Credit: AP

An African peace mission, led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Ukraine and Russia last week, seeking ways to end the war. In Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv where bodies were found after the Russian withdrawal last year, the delegation visited the site of a mass grave and held talks with Volodymyr Zelensky. In St. Petersburg, Mr. Ramaphosa met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and told him the war must be brought to an end diplomatically. But the Kremlin was pessimistic about the African mission. “The peace initiative proposed by African countries is very difficult to implement, difficult to compare positions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said about it. The African peace mission comes as Ukraine launches a counteroffensive to oust the Russian forces from the areas they hold, using Western-supplied advanced weapons, in attacks in several sections of more than the 1,000-km front line. Ukraine has claimed to have won some minor success along the frontline by taking villages in the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk border, but is facing stiff resistance from the Russians.

Trump pleads not guilty

Donald Trump

Donald Trump | Photo Credit: AP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal criminal charges that he unlawfully kept classified documents when he left office and lied to officials who sought to recover them. The indictment of Mr. Trump, who became the first former President to face federal charges, creates an unprecedented political situation in the U.S. ahead of the 2024 presidential election. For Mr. Trump, who assailed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election campaign over her use of a private server, this is an embarrassing situation. He already faces criminal charges in investigations by the Manhattan District Attorney over the payment of hush money to an adult film actor in 2016. A prosecutor in Georgia is probing alleged attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to topple the results of the 2020 presidential elections, with charges expected in August. Fresh charges pursued by the federal government will further deepen his legal troubles just when the election campaign is heating up. But at the same time, he seems determined to fight the case both politically and legally. What makes the indictment politically complicated is that Mr. Trump is not only a former President but also the key potential rival of Mr. Biden, the incumbent, in 2024.

The Top Five

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Jumpstarting the next phase of U.S.-India defence ties:The visit of America’s Defence Secretary earlier in June has prepared the ground for the the Indian Prime Minister’s U.S. visit next week, which could see some big ticket announcements, write Harsh V. Pant and Vivek Mishra.

The path to a new and imminent U.S.-Iran nuclear deal:Tehran is entering into the arrangement with no illusion that it will have a long-term value as, at best, it will survive the present Biden administration, writes Talmiz Ahmad.

In Israel, diverse Jewish-Indian communities come together to build a Heritage Centre:The festivities symbolised not only the rise of Israel-India relations, but also internal reconciliation among Indian Jews--Cochinis, Bnei Israel, Baghdadis and Bnei Menashe—known for their internal feuding along the lines of caste and class that go back hundreds of years, reports Yeshaya Rosenman.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank | Banking on China:Canada’s comment that it would conduct an ‘expeditious’ review of its involvement in the AIIB has underlined the continuing shadow of politics over the functioning of the multilateral lender in which China holds the most voting power with 26.58%, writes Ananth Krishnan.

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