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India, China strategic talks today; focus on continuity

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh. File Photo: V. Sudershan
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh. 
 
India and China will on Monday afternoon hold the sixth round of their strategic dialogue, with the talks expected to lay the groundwork for a series of high-level engagements between the two countries set to take place in coming months following the Lok Sabha elections.

The message from officials of both countries is that the dialogue here will stress continuity in ties at a functional level even as political engagements remain on hold on account of the elections.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh will meet with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Monday afternoon at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse here.

Besides bilateral engagements, the dialogue will look at the entire breadth of the relationship as well as common regional concerns such as the situation in Afghanistan. India and China have expressed willingness to do more to coordinate their efforts there, including on joint projects.

Following the dialogue with Mr. Liu, Ms. Singh will, later on Monday evening, call on Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The talks will also firm up what officials described as "a packed calendar" of bilateral visits in the coming year, which is being marked as "a year of friendly exchanges".

A highlight could be the first visit by Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping to India. Mr. Xi has expressed his desire to visit India later this year on what would be his first trip to the country after taking over as President in March 2013, as The Hindu first reported last month.

The proposed visit is being seen as reflecting the new Chinese leadership's intent to take ties forward with the new government in New Delhi that will be in place after the Lok Sabha elections.

Monday's strategic dialogue will be followed by a high-level military-level dialogue in New Delhi next week, when a People's Liberation Army (PLA) delegation led by the Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, travels to India for DGMO-level talks on the boundary issue, to be held on April 22.

The talks will also firm up plans for annual defence exercises, which will be held in India later this year. Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan is also expected to visit India later this year.

Next week, the two Navies are also slated to have talks with a delegation from India set to visit Qingdao, the northeastern headquarters of the PLA Navy's North Sea fleet, where the PLA is hosting an international fleet review to mark its 65th anniversary.

The stealth frigate INS Shivalik will participate in the review.

China had invited India's Navy chief to Qingdao, but following the resignation of Navy Chief D.K. Joshi a month ago and a successor yet to be appointed, the Navy will send a "fairly high-ranking" officer to lead the delegation, officials said.

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