Ananth Krishnan, India Today | January 31, 2015
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who arrives in Beijing on Saturday evening on a three-day visit, will on Monday hold rare talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, underlining the importance China is placing on the visit.
Officials told India Today the Chinese President will meet Swaraj on Monday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the expansive Chinese Parliament building where foreign heads of state are usually welcomed.
It is not a very frequent occurrence, officials said, that Xi meets with Foreign Ministers from overseas, who are usually granted an audience with the second-ranked Premier or other leaders from the elite 7-member Politburo Standing Committee.
Swaraj’s visit has taken on significance in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s recently concluded visit to India, which saw the India and US announce for the first time a joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean.
The vision expresses both countries’ concern over the South China Sea dispute – an issue considered sensitive for China. Beijing this week reiterated its position that it believed the dispute was only for the parties directly concerned to resolve.
Officials said Xi’s meeting with Swaraj was in the works before Obama’s visit to India, so was not related to this week’s developments.
Swaraj’s visit is expected to lay the ground work for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to China, set to take place in the first half of this year.
Swaraj will begin her visit on Sunday by launching a Media Forum between Chinese and Indian journalists. On Sunday afternoon, she will hold bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in central Beijing.
On Monday, Swaraj will attend the Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers’ meeting, which will send a signal that despite India’s deepening of ties with Washington, it will continue with a multi-aligned foreign policy and bolster its relations with both China and Russia, which currently has particularly tense relations with the US.