NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left Saturday on a five-day trip to China and Mongolia.
Swaraj, who will participate in the meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) April 24, is also expected to meet her counterpart Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and other SCO foreign ministers separately during the visit.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also expected in Beijing April 24 for the SCO defence ministers’ meeting. These meetings are expected to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the SCO summit in the Chinese port city of Qingdao, famous for its annual beer festival, in June.
India and Pakistan were formally admitted to the SCO, a Eurasian political, economic, and security outfit comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in June last year.
In New Delhi, speculation over whether Modi would make a stand-alone trip to China before the SCO summit continues. His last visit in September 2017 for the BRICS summit in Xiamen was seen as an ice-breaker after the Doklam standoff earlier that year and the subsequent chill in relations. There have been several high-level visits and dialogues since then in an attempt to bring the relationship back on an even keel. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was in Shanghai last month, where he met Yang Jiechi, Politburo member and director of the newly formed Central Foreign Affairs Commission (CFAC).
On Sunday, Swaraj will meet foreign minister Wang, the first meeting since his elevation last month as state councillor, which makes him the seniormost Chinese diplomat, and some other SCO counterparts. She is also expected to meet some Chinese scholars and students learning Hindi.
After the SCO meeting on April 24, Sushma will visit to Mongolia, becoming the first Indian External Affairs Minister to do so in 42 years. She will co-chair the 6th round of India-Mongolia Joint Consultative Committee (IMJCC) meeting with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar, which will cover political, strategic, economic, educational and cultural ties, and also deliver the keynote address at the Kushok Bakula Birth Centenary Celebrations to mark the birth anniversary of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a highly revered Buddhist monk from Ladakh and India ‘s longest serving Ambassador to Mongolia.
In May 2015, Narenda Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister ever to visit Mongolia.