NSA Ajit Doval's China visit: Despite high hopes, reports suggest 'meaningful dialogue' on Doka La, border unlikely

With India and China involved in a prolonged standoff in the Sikkim region, resulting in deterioration of ties between the two nations, the upcoming visit of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Beijing was initially thought to bring some respite. However, with Chinese officials and their state media ratchetting up rhetoric against India, there are several reports which have said that a meaningful dialogue between Doval and Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi is highly unlikely.

Doval is set to travel to Beijing to attend the BRICS NSAs meeting scheduled to be held from 27 July to 28 July. Despite hinting that a bilateral meet could take place between Doval and Yang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, "We once again urge India to pull back its troops to the Indian side of the boundary. I want to stress again that this is the precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides."

As this Firstpost article noted, New Delhi has been expecting that Doval's visit would mark a turning point and result in neutralisation of tensions at the border because the NSA has a certain kind of political consensus, cutting across party lines, to resolve the dispute. Even as the government and the Opposition practically empowered Doval to find a diplomatic way out of the standoff, the Chinese have kept issuing warnings through its media.

The Economic Times reported that a day before Doval's visit, China's foreign minister Wang Yi accused India of intrusion in the Doka La region, thereby dimming prospects of an early resolution to the border stand-off. "The rights and wrongs are very clear," Wang said, claiming that senior Indian officials have "openly stated that Chinese troops did not enter Indian territory." "In other words, the Indian side admitted to entering Chinese territory," Wang further said on Monday.

 NSA Ajit Dovals China visit: Despite high hopes, reports suggest meaningful dialogue on Doka La, border unlikely

File image of Yang Jiechi and Ajit Doval. Reuters

His statement has been matched by Chinese state-run publication, The Global Times, which has warned Indian media of being too naïve in assuming that Doval's visit will lead to a settlement.

In a scathing editorial, it called Doval as "one of the main schemers" behind the border row, and said his trip to Beijing on Friday won't help settle the row. "Doval will inevitably be disappointed if he attempts to bargain with Beijing over the border disputes," the editorial added.

Another Firstpost article noted that it would be unwise to expect a breakthrough from Doval's visit.

"In fact, by needlessly hyping up Doval's routine visit, Indian media is serving to narrow his strategic maneuverability. It is inconceivable that in one meeting (if at all), Doval will be able to influence China into aborting the grand Bhutan strategy that has caused China so much time, scheming and effort. Those hoping for a resolution are innocent of the nature of Chinese power politics," the article noted.

According to News18, a possible scenario is also that the Chinese refuse to meet Doval and the standoff is stretched even further because ahead of the 19th party congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping can't be seen losing face.

The Hindustan Times said that even though Kang left the door open for talks between Doval and Yang by saying that he cannot confirm it but in the past meetings of BRICS NSAs, the officials have held bilateral meetings, a meaningful dialogue on the Doka La issue is unlikely.

Depsite Doval and Yang being the special representatives of their countries for talks on border disputes, Chinese media has warned that the upcoming visit will not sway China. Livemint reported that Doval will be the fourth Indian emissary to be engaging with the Chinese since the tri-junction dispute broke out at the India-China-Bhutan border.

Human resources development minister Prakash Javadekar, minister of state for tourism Mahesh Sharma and health minister JP Nadda have visited China for BRICS-related meetings earlier this month and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi came face to face with Jinping at the BRICS leaders meeting but no resolution has been found yet.

The report also quoted Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College as saying, "I don't see any dramatic development out of the visit [Doval’s visit to China]. Both sides have ratcheted up the tension to a level from where a dramatic climb down would be difficult." He argues that the best outcome that can be expected from it is to lay the groundwork for a cooling of temperatures.

Therefore, while Doval's visit, with the blessing of the government and the Opposition alike, was highly anticipated to bring about a diplomatic solution to the crisis, the statements from Chinese leaders and state run media has diminished hopes. The Indian media, which was eyeing the visit expectantly, seems to have dulled their hopes. The reports now suggest that though a bilateral meet might take place between Doval and Yang, they are not likely to talk about the China-India standoff.

Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 13:29:47 IST