India should join a “trilateral” mechanism with China and Pakistan, the Chinese envoy to India said on Monday, suggesting that the idea for a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) had come from Indian officials or experts.
“Security cooperation is one of three pillars of the SCO. Some Indian friends suggested that China, India and Pakistan may have some kind of trilateral cooperation under the SCO,” said Ambassador Luo Zhaohui in his first public comments since the SCO Qingdao summit in China last week. Mr Luo proposal came during his keynote address at a day-long seminar organised by the Embassy of China in the national capital.
The Ambassador said a dialogue between Russia-China-Mongolia was conducted on the SCO sidelines despite their historical differences, suggesting that one with India and Pakistan may be a possibility as well.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has not responded to the startling declaration by the Chinese Ambassador.
China’s Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui suggested a “5 C” approach to bettering India-China ties with more “communication, cooperation, contacts, coordination, and control (and management of differences”.
Delivering the keynote address at a day-long seminar organised by the Embassy of China in the national capital on Monday, Mr Luo he flagged the challenges in reducing the $50 billion plus trade deficit, given the low interest by Indian companies in doing business in China. Only four Indian companies had registered to take part at the upcoming China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Mr. Luo said.
However, he said as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Wuhan to meet with President Xi Jinping for an informal summit, the two sides had taken steps to reduce the trade deficit.
“China will import more sugar, non-Basmati rice and high quality medicines from India to reduce trade imbalance. A new bilateral trade target has been set for $100 billion by 2022. India agreed to facilitate the establishment of Bank of China branch office in Mumbai,” Mr. Luo said.
In his speech that followed, Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant also said businesses on both sides must be more proactive, and listed Chinese companies that are now seeing opportunities in India.
Earlier in his speech, Mr Luo had proposed that India should join a “trilateral” mechanism with China and Pakistan, on the sidelines of the SCO. Indicating that the suggestion for such a mechanism had come from Indian officials, Mr Luo said dialogue between Russia-China-Mongolia was conducted on the SCO sidelines despite their historical differences, suggesting that one with India and Pakistan may be a possibility as well.
While India has several trilateral engagements including Russia-India-China, U.S.-India-Japan, U.S.-India-Afghanistan etc. as mechanisms for talks, this would be the first such mechanism with Pakistan, with which there has been no bilateral dialogue since External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad in December 2015.
“This would be a non-starter in my opinion,” Ashok Kantha, the Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies and former Ambassador to Beijing told The Hindu . “Besides the fact that Indian policy is to only resolve its problems with Pakistan in a bilateral format, one must see that China would not be an unbiased partner in such a dialogue given its ties with Pakistan,” he explained, referring to China’s backing of Pakistan on terror issues like designation of Masood Azhar, as well as at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Meanwhile Mr. Luo clarified that the India-China cooperation in Afghanistan agreed to during the Wuhan Summit would not be for investment or infrastructure, but for capacity building and training of Afghan civil servants as part of what he called a “China India Plus” cooperation.
“This is a first step”, he told journalists at the seminar entitled “Beyond Wuhan: How far and fast can China-India relations go?” organised by the Chinese Embassy along with the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), The Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) and the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC).