NEW DELHI: Even as reports of a Chinese incursion in Arunachal Pradesh the day after Christmas filter in, a high-level delegation of the central committee of Communist Party of China was expected to arrive late Wednesday on a five-day visit to India as part of a long-standing exchange programme.
Led by deputy director of CPC’s central committee Meng Xiangfeng — said to be a close confidant of President Xi Jinping — the delegation is expected to meet several central and state government officials, including Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, however, will not be available since she will be on a foreign trip.
“These trips by CPC delegations have been going on and off for a long time,” said Bhaskar Roy, a former intelligence officer who served in China. “Their job to promote China and indulge in some sophisticated snooping, getting to know the minds of the people, and convince people how good they are.”
Incidentally, Meng was a senior official with the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets before being named President Xi’s deputy chief of staff in September 2015.
“This has nothing to do with Doklam, but there is a purpose to the visit,” said Roy, “Because the people who are coming are heavyweights and the man leading the delegation is the deputy of the central committee, so it should be taken with seriousness, though we should not fall into any trap.”
He notes that “at the moment, they (China) are stuck on the Belt and Road Initiative… and India is very important for the certification of the initiative. India’s absence makes other Asian countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal hesitant”.
Lt-General (retd) J S Bajwa, author of a book on the PLA and the editor of Indian Defence Review argues that Sushma’s absence is “good signaling”. Stressing that he did not see India ever taking on a role in South-East Asia to militarily counter-balance China since “we do not have the geo-economic weight to support such ambitions”, Lt-Gen. Bajwa said India will instead reach out to other nations like Afghanistan with more meaningful assistance which will directly affect the local population. “This builds a strong moral voice which China will hesitate to brush aside casually without ramifications to its claims of ‘peaceful rise’.”
Commodore R S Vasan, secretary and director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies said he did not expect anything significant from the visit. He said China will continue its attempts to buy politicians and favours from other nations. However, he said the world has become increasingly wary of Chinese intentions.