Sushma Swaraj likely to visit China in April for Shanghai Cooperation Organization meet

New Delhi: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to travel to China next month to take part in the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) foreign ministerial meeting that will set the stage for a summit-level meet among leaders of the grouping in June.

Swaraj’s visit comes against the backdrop of efforts being made by India and China to move past tensions that rose out of last year’s 73-day-long military stand-off in the Doklam plateau of Bhutan.

Swaraj’s visit to China for the SCO foreign ministers’ meet is expected to take place on 23-24 April, a government official said on Tuesday.

According to other officials, Swaraj is scheduled to travel to Japan on a bilateral visit from 28 March. She will also likely travel to the US to participate in the strategic dialogue in the “2+2” format (foreign and defence minister-level consultations) in Washington on 18 April.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also scheduled to travel to the US for the dialogue. However, US President Donald Trump’s sacking of secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and appointing Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo in his place could result in a postponement of the India-US “2+2” talks.

India, which had been an “observer” in the Eurasian SCO grouping since 2005, was made a full member last year along with Pakistan.

During her China visit, Swaraj is also expected to hold a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the summit. The two leaders had held bilateral talks in December on the sidelines of the Russia-India-China trilateral meet in New Delhi.

The visit is seen as an opportunity for both India and China to work on the agreement, reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in Xiamen in September, that strong ties between India and China were a factor for stability in the world, in the midst of the current global uncertainties, and that the two countries should not allow their differences to become disputes.

The meeting between Modi and Xi was the first top-level interaction between the two countries after the Doklam stand-off, triggered when Indian troops intervened to stop Chinese troops from building a road on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. The face-off ended on 28 August.

According to news reports, China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and scaling up its infrastructure in the disputed area.

Last week, Sitharaman told Parliament that China was constructing helipads, sentry posts and trenches for its army personnel in the Doklam area, according to a PTI report.

“Post disengagement from the face-off in 2017, troops of both sides have redeployed themselves away from their respective positions at the face-off site. The strength of both sides has been reduced,” the report quoted the minister as saying.

“In order to maintain these troops during the winter, People’s Liberation Army has undertaken construction of some infrastructure,” she added.livemint