S Jaishankar, New Chinese Foreign Minister’s First Meeting Today
The first bilateral meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and the newly appointed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang is set to take place later today. While the Chinese Foreign Minister arrived in Delhi after midnight to attend the G20 foreign ministers meeting, all eyes are now on the meeting between the two foreign ministers, given the icy ties between the two neighbours.
The meeting is particularly significant in light of the ongoing friction in Eastern Ladakh, which started in May 2020 and the recent clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in Tawang in the Eastern sector of the Line of Actual Control or LAC in December 2022. The Indian External Affairs Minister has already had approximately 39 bilateral meetings, which began yesterday, but the meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister has assumed greater significance.
Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, however, emphasised that the Indian side has not made any distinctions between the meetings with various counterparts. Speaking on the issue, he said, “He (S Jaishankar) would definitely try and meet as many counterparts of his as possible, if not all the counterparts, who are visiting, who are our guests here from since yesterday and for another next couple of days.”
The meeting is expected to take place at around noon during the break between the two sessions of the G20 foreign ministers meeting. Mr Jaishankar is also likely to meet his American counterpart, Antony Blinken, separately at 11:30 am just ahead of the meeting with Qin Gang. Despite the ongoing friction in Eastern Ladakh, the communication lines have remained open between the Foreign Minister of the two countries.
Mr Jaishankar had previously met with Qin Gang’s predecessor, Wang Yi, in 2020 and 2021 on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation or SCO meetings and in 2022 on the sidelines of the G20 Bali foreign ministers meeting.
The impasse in Eastern Ladakh has now entered its 34th month, and at least two friction points in Demchok and Depsang remain to be resolved. The disengagement of troops in all friction points would lead to a de-escalation of troops in the Western sector of the LAC, the de facto border between the two countries.