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India, China set for first major dialogue after Doklam standoff

India and China will hold the 20th meeting of their Special Representatives (SRs) in New Delhi on Friday where the Asian giants are expected to review a range of bilateral issues and major international issues of common concern.

This is the first major bilateral dialogue since the 73-day military standoff between the two countries in Bhutan’s Doklam plateau earlier this year. It is believed that ways to prevent a repeat of such incidents will be among issues that would be discussed.

“At the invitation of Ajit Doval, national security adviser and the Special Representative of India on the boundary question, Yang Jiechi, member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee and China’s Special Representative on the boundary question, will visit India on 22 December to hold the 20th meeting of the Special Representatives,” a statement from India’s external affairs ministry said.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Tuesday said the meeting is not only a high-level channel for the two countries to hold talks on boundary questions but also an important platform for them to conduct strategic communications.

“It is held regularly every year by the two countries in turn. During the meeting, the two sides will exchange views on China-India relations and the major international and regional issues of common concern,” she added.

The SR dialogue comes after Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj separately during his visit to New Delhi last week for the Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers’ meeting. The issue of Doklam had figured in their talks and a Chinese foreign ministry statement last week said the results of efforts made by both countries to ensure overall momentum was “unsatisfactory.”

India has maintained that the Wang-Swaraj talks were extremely cordial and the emphasis was on ensuring that differences did not become disputes and get out of hand.

In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had met in Xiamen on the sidelines of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) Summit and the two leaders had agreed to move forward from the Doklam face-off.

Experts said not just Doklam but a range of issues will be on the table for the dialogue.

“The Special Representatives dialogue is not just for resolving the border disputes but for broad review of the bilateral relations. So much has happening and has happened that there will be long agenda to discuss. I would like to think that they will review the situation after Doklam,” said India’s former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

He emphasized that China may also talk about its ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative and try to persuade India to be associated with it.

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