India and China will hold the 20th round of negotiations on the border issues on Friday. The meeting, which comes four months after the forces of the two sides confronted each other at the Doklam plateau, will be headed by special representatives from both sides, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
The Ministry of External Affairs made a formal announcement for the talks on Thursday which were finalised during last week’s bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, held on the sidelines of the trilateral RIC (Russia-India-China) foreign ministers’ meeting. Ms Swaraj and Mr Wang had both indicated that the two sides realise the need to continue normal dialogue given the importance of overall relationship.
The MEA did not comment on what would be on the agenda of the Doval-Yang dialogue even though there have been some discussion in the Indian policy studies circles about the various issues like the One Belt One Road initiative, China’s opposition to Indian membership at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Indian opposition to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that might feature in the talks.
The Hindu earlier reported that Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui had indicated China will be willing to change the name of CPEC to address India’s concerns regarding CPEC. “We can change name of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). Create an alternate corridor through Jammu and Kashmir, Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with India’s concerns,” the envoy had said in November in an academic meeting.
However, a new issue on the ground that may also feature is the issue of the pollution of the Siang river which has contaminated the flow of the mighty Brahmaputra in Assam. Though India has raised the issue most recently during last week’s discussion with visiting foreign minister Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson has dismissed the report.
“On the issue of Siang, now this is naturally a matter of concern to us. We are coordinating with the Ministry of Water Resources and we have ascertained certain facts. I can also share with you that the matter did come up during External Affairs Minister’s meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister and again as you are aware there are existing mechanisms between the two countries to deal with such matters on the river arrangement,” said the spokesperson last week.