Sushma Swaraj to visit China for RIC meet, finalise Xi’s India tour

Beijing, Aug 15 : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will make her maiden visit to China later this month amid hectic consultations between the two countries to sort out scheduling problems in Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s high-profile trip to New Delhi. ”We have an active calendar of visits ahead of us, with Swaraj travelling to China later this month,” Indian Ambassador to China, Ashok K Kantha said, addressing an Independence Day gathering at the Embassy here today.

“We are looking forward to the State visit of President Xi Jinping to India shortly,” he said. Swaraj will be coming to attend Russia, India, China, (RIC) trilateral Foreign Ministers meeting to be held here on August 28 and 29. Though her visit is not strictly regarded as a bilateral trip, she will have talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi besides expected meetings with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang to finalise the Chinese President’s India visit, billed as a major bilateral event.

According to officials on both sides, Xi’s visit, which had been planned for September 14-15, is caught in scheduling problems. The Chinese President plans to visit India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in that order next month. Keen to send a message to scale up relations, Xi want to make India the first destination of his sub-continent visit. But Xi’s trip ran into scheduling problems as President Pranab Mukherjee is set to visit Vietnam around the same time.

Protocol wise, the presence of President is important. So India sought rescheduling of Xi’s visit, which meant that he could go to Pakistan first and then to India. For its part, China is reportedly keen over India to be Xi’s first destination, like the previous Chinese leaders in recent years who visited India first and travelled to Islamabad later, despite the all weather China-Pakistan ties. His number two ranking colleague, Premier Li Keqiang chose India to be his first destination abroad in May last year after taking over power to send a strong signal to India about the new Chinese leadership’s keenness to improve the ties. Indian officials say the outcome of the visit was more important than semantics.