India and China are working to forge stronger economic ties, but political-strategic issues remain. It’s against this backdrop that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will be arriving in New Delhi on Wednesday on a two-day official visit. Yang’s trip will provide a good opportunity for both sides to try to iron out their differences at a time when the global economic outlook is cloudy, international oil prices are rising, and the Iran crisis is worsening.
The External Affairs Ministry announced Tuesday that Yang’s India visit is part of the mutually agreed mechanism of annual exchanges at the level of foreign minister. Yang will hold formal talks with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. Both ministers will also hold discussions on the forthcoming BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit to be held in New Delhi on March 28 to 29. Yang would also be calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Yang’s visit is extremely significant and should help the two Asian giants better understand each other’s intentions. Last week, Beijing had objected to Defense Minister A.K. Antony’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh as it could further complicate the complex boundary dispute between the two nations.
India, for its part, seems poised to again take up the issue of China giving stapled visas to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Last year, Yang had assured New Delhi during his visit to India that China would consider India’s objections regarding the stapled visas. Sadly, China’s position hasn’t changed. To compound the issue, China gives regular visas to people from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, making it seem Beijing is taking sides on the issue.
China and India clearly have an opportunity with Yang’s visit to outline for each other their intentions on a range of issues. Both sides need to see past moves clearly made for domestic audiences and work towards a business-like relationship based around the clear advantages this offers. With both sides now having a clearer stake in a growing and profitable economic relationship, China and India must take the next step to put past tensions aside and work towards a brighter future.