DC Edit | Wang's return won't change ties
Dealing with China has been about the hardest task for ministers and diplomats of the foreign offices of many countries. An intriguing recent turn in China wherein one of President Xi Jinping’s most trusted aides, Qin Gang, who made a name as an outspoken “wolf warrior” diplomat, was sacked as foreign minister may have added to the difficulties. Mr Qin’s removal as foreign minister following a month of absence at public events when rumours were flying about his affair with a popular television news reader being a harbinger of his downfall, may not, however, make much difference for India as Mr Wang Yi returns as China’s foreign minister.
A familiar figure, Mr Wang Yi, who is a higher-ranking party official than Mr Qin, has been in the centre of China’s dealings with many countries, including India, for some years now, and is thought to have a good working relationship with his opposite number, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, since his days in Beijing as India’s envoy. Even so, there has been little progress in fraught ties clouded by China’s intransigence on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) situation, about which India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval had some frank things to say to Mr Wang as he was representing China at the Brics NSAs meeting in Johannesburg this week.
The abrupt removal of Mr Qin with a session of the legislature urgently convened for this purpose even as he retains his post in the party is as mysterious an event as it tends to come from China. What might remain a constant, despite a purported conversation between Mr Xi and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a dinner in Bali last year regarding restoration of bilateral ties, is China’s insistence on other ties to aim normality while keeping the border tensions out of the ambit of discussions.
Bilateral trade might be going on briskly between India and China — $115.2 billion in 2022 with India’s trade deficit at $110.2 billion — but India has drawn the line on pushing for normality in bilateral engagements until the LAC issue is fully sorted out. China has been seen as having derived an advantage out of the partial disengagement processes carried out. Given no synergy is possible with India and China taking diametrically opposite stands on what should take primacy — the border issue and fuller disengagement or normalisation of all other ties — it is unlikely there will be any change in the trajectory of a highly troubled relationship, despite the flip-flop change of guard in China’s foreign ministry.