BEIJING (TIP): Vice-President Hamid Ansari arrived in Xian, June 26, on his maiden visit to China. He said he would discuss all matters of “bilateral agenda” with his Chinese counterpart while simultaneously emphasizing on the continued relevance and applicability of the Panchsheel. His statement came in response to a question on whether he intended to discuss the continuing incidents of intrusion and aggression by China’s People’s Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“All matters of bilateral agenda will be taken up,” he said while avoiding giving a direct answer to a supplementary question on whether Chinese military intrusions would specifically get discussed. “Bilateral agenda means bilateral agenda; that is the totality of substance between the two countries discussed from time to time. We will discuss but I cannot anticipate the talks”, he said. The two countries are scheduled to sign several bilateral agreements, most likely pertaining to trade and commerce.
One issue on which Vice President Ansari was more forthcoming was the balance of trade. In reply to a question he said the two governments were working on this. “It is a matter of concern to us that while trade is increasing, the balance of trade is not coming down. The two governments are seized of the matter and will address them in time”, he said adding that Union Minister of Commerce Nirmala Sitaraman, who is accompanying him on the official visit, is expected to discuss this with her Chinese counterparts.
That India attaches high importance to its relations with China was evident from Ansari’s opening statement at a brief interaction he held with the media on board the special Air India flight soon after take off from New Delhi. “China is a very important country. It is our most important neighbor. It is a country with which our bilateral trade is almost at the top with only one or two countries recording higher bilateral trade”, he said adding, “Both governments are committed to furthering our relations”.
Ansari’s visit is the first by a high ranking Indian this year which incidentally has been designated as the ‘Year of Friendly Exchanges’. His visit is preceded by Premier Li Keqiang’s congratulatory phone call to newly elected Prime Minster Narendra Modi which was followed by a visit of a special Chinese envoy to New Delhi. He is scheduled to meet the Communist Party of China’s secretary for Shaanxi province before arriving in Beijing tomorrow night. Incidentally, Shaanxi province is the birth place of Chinese President Xi Jinping. He was received by the Vice Governor of Shaanxi province Wang Lixia.
In Beijing, the Vice President is scheduled to hold a set of both bilateral and trilateral meetings. His bilateral meetings with the Chinese leadership will include holding discussions with his counterpart Vice President Li Yuanchao, a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang and a call on President Xi Jinping. He will also hold a bilateral meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein. But the significant occasion for which he is here is the India-China-Myanmar trilateral summit meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the historic Panchsheel, a joint statement on which was issued by the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in New Delhi on June 28, 1954.
Asked about the relevance of the Panchsheel, Ansari, who is a former IFS officer, replied “Panchsheel are of universal value. So much so that not only China, India and Myanmar, but the entire non alignment movement and a majority of the nations subscribe to it. Inter-state relations can only be on these principles”, he added pointing out that the “principles (of Panchsheel) are impeccable and there is no dispute about it.” The Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful co-existence comprises mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non aggression, mutual non-interference, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence.