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In Beijing, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale discusses bilateral ties with top Chinese officials

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale's visit, which was kept under wraps was announced through a tweet by Indian Embassy early today.

Reported by: PTI, Beijing [ Updated: February 24, 2018 22:21 IST ]
File pic of Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale
File pic of Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale

Amid continued Sino-India discord over a host of issues, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale has made a surprise visit to Beijing and held talks with top Chinese officials on bilateral ties and topics related to regional and international importance.

Gokhale's visit, which was kept under wraps was announced through a tweet by Indian Embassy early today.

"During the consultations, the two sides reviewed recent developments in bilateral relations, including high level exchanges, and discussed the agenda for bilateral engagement in the coming months," a statement by the Indian Embassy here said.

Gokhale was India's envoy to China before he succeeded S Jaishankar as the Foreign Secretary last month, held talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, and called on Foreign Minister Wang Yi and state councillor Yang Jiechi,the statement said.

In Chinese hierarchy, Yang who is the State Councillor besides Special Representative of India-China border talks, is placed higher than the Foreign Minister.

Both Wang and Yang visited New Delhi to kick start the bilateral dialogue, the first after the 73-day standoff at Dokalam which strained ties.

"Both sides agreed upon the need to expedite various dialogue mechanisms in order to promote multifaceted cooperation across diverse fields of India-China engagement," the statement said.

They noted the need to build on the convergences between India and China and address differences on the basis of mutual respect and sensitivity to each other's concerns, interests and aspirations, the statement said.

"Both sides underlined that as two major countries, sound development of relations between India and China is a factor of stability in the world today.  The two sides also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest," it said.

Late last night, the Chinese Foreign Ministry posted a statement on its website.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in its statement said that Wang told Gokhale that the two sides should enhance strategic mutual trust and accelerate common development in line with the political consensus of the leaders of the two countries

"We hope that the Indian side will handle sensitive issues prudently and work with China to promote the sound development of China-India relations," Wang said in an apparent reference to host of sensitive issues, including the current political crisis in Maldives being faced by the two countries.

China and India are both representatives of emerging markets and big developing countries, Wang said, adding that "commonality" cannot be replaced.

Gokhale, meanwhile, said India attaches great importance to its relations with China and is willing to work with it to implement the consensus of leaders, strengthen strategic communications, take care of each other's core concerns and create a good atmosphere and conditions for the sustained and steady development of bilateral relations.

The visit of Gokhale, who reportedly held the key negotiations to resolve the 73-day standoff at Dokalam, came in the backdrop of difficult bilateral and trilateral issues being dealt with by the two countries.

The Dokalam standoff ended on August 28 after the Chinese military stopped road building close to the strategic Chicken Neck corridor in an area claimed by Bhutan.

Besides the tensions along the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC), the two countries faced a range of issues, including India's objection to the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China blocking efforts at the UN to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist as well as India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The current political crisis in the Maldives also emerged as an irritant in bilateral ties.

The Maldives was plunged into a crisis when President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day emergency on February 5 and ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice and a former head of state after the Supreme Court termed "unconstitutional" the imprisonment of nine MPs and former President Mohammed Nasheed.

China which has made large scale investments in the Maldives, called for the crisis to be resolved by relevant parties internally and opposed any external intervention. Beijing also opposed to even UN mediation to resolve the crisis.

Former president Nasheed, who is currently in exile in Sri Lanka, however had called for the Indian intervention to resolve the crisis.  

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