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India says neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ to Chinese foreign minister’s proposed visit

But India and China are indeed discussing the proposal from Beijing; the itinerary of Wang Yi in India and the objectives of the visit are not finalised yet

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India refused to respond officially to reports of a proposed visit to the country by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later this month, with external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi saying he had “no information” to share on the matter.

China has proposed Wang’s India tour as part of his plans to travel to several countries in the region, beginning 22 March. Wang is expected to be in on 22 and 23 March to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and he will visit Nepal on 26 March on a two-day tour.

Other countries that may be part of Wang’s itinerary are Bangladesh and Bhutan. India and China have been discussing Beijing’s proposal though sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said yesterday that the visit was not fully firmed up and dates had not been confirmed.

Asked at a weekly media briefing about the reports regarding Wang’s proposed visit to India, the MEA spokesman said: “I have a very short answer on this. I don’t have any information to share on this at this moment.”

If the visit is finalised, it will be the first by a senior Chinese administrator to India since the two countries were locked in a dragging standoff in sector of the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in May 2020. China has reportedly sought meetings with Wang’s counterpart, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Wang and Doval are also the Special Representatives for talks on the border issue between the two countries.

The standoff along the LoAC, and a brutal clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020 that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and more than 40 Chinese troops (according to Russian sources) have taken bilateral relations to an all-time low.

Responding to another question on Indian students being unable to return to China to complete their courses because of Covid-19-related restrictions, Bagchi said the Indian embassy in Beijing and the foreign affairs ministry has taken up this matter with Chinese authorities on numerous occasions.

“We have highlighted the plight of the students and how the continuation of these stringent restrictions was putting the academic careers of thousands of students in jeopardy,” he said, adding Jaishankar had personally raised this issue with Wang when they met in Dushanbe last September.

New Delhi has noted that a statement made by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on 8 February that China is “considering, in a coordinated manner, arrangements for allowing foreign students to return to China for their studies”, and another statement on 14 March that work was underway for the return of some foreign students.

“But let me clarify that till date, the Chinese side has not given any categorical response about the return of Indian students. We will continue to urge the Chinese side to adopt a congenial stance in the interest of our students and that they facilitate an early return to China so that our students can pursue their studies,” the MEA spokesman said.

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