Despite occasional hiccups and war of words including the one last week upon Indian Defense Minister A K Antony’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, both India and China will try to sort out their innumerable differences over a host of issues during Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s official visit to India from 29 February-1 March, 2012. Yang is visiting India as part of the mutually agreed mechanism of annual exchange of visits at the level of Foreign Ministers. During his visit Foreign Minister Yang and External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna discussed issues of bilateral, regional and global significance but most importantly both the Ministers held discussions on the forthcoming BRICS Summit to be held in New Delhi on 28-29 March, 2012.
The meeting is being held at a crucial time since the global economic outlook remains grim due to worsening crisis in Iran and rising oil prices.
According an exclusive story in Indian Express both countries today also agreed to launch first-ever maritime dialogue with each other. The agreement is crucial since both the countries are de facto rivals in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean region. China, of late has been saying that Indian Ocean is not India’s exclusive sphere. China’s claim of South China Sea being part of its core interest has received equal level of opposition from India.
Last year China asked India to stay away from exploring oil and gas in the Vietnam controlled South China Sea. India and Vietnam paired to criticise Beijing for what the Vietnamese said their sovereign waters. Earlier this month during the India-ASEAN Delhi Dialogue IV foreign minister SM Krishna said that South China Sea was no one country’s sea.
China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea is being also seen as the reason why nearly half of the ASEAN countries advocated a bigger role for the US in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing’s long terms ally Vietnam also didn’t oppose the US enthusiasm to ‘return to Asia.’
The decision to hold maritime dialogue decision should be a major breakthrough for ensuring a cooperative mechanism for a peaceful and non-hegemonic Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCS).
Other issues like stapled visas to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet also figured in today’s talks. India also raised the issue of Brahmaputra drying up in Pasighat in East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh allegedly due to a dam constructed by China at Zangmu in the middle reaches of Yarlung Tsango (as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet).