Menon leaves for China for strategic talks


New Delhi : Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon left for Beijing Thursday morning on a two-day visit to hold strategic dialogue with the Chinese leadership and to firm up the agenda for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China next month.

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Menon’s trip coincides with the historic move by India and China to hold the first joint military exercise in Kunming in western Yunnan province of China, signalling their resolve to reverse decades of mutual distrust and deepen their newly formed strategic partnership.

Menon will hold the third round of strategic dialogue with vice-foreign minister Wu Dawei and will call on Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and discuss with them a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

The two sides will review progress in resolving the decades-old border dispute. Its resolution was set as the strategic objective of their growing relationship during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India in November last year.

The Chinese leadership is making “vigorous preparations” for the visit of Manmohan Singh, with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao describing it as a “big event”.

Manmohan Singh is likely to go to China Jan 13 on a three-day visit that is expected to further strengthen ties between the two Asian giants that are consciously seeking to put behind bitter memories of the 1962 border conflict and build a new relationship.

Other issues that will figure prominently in the talks include enhanced cooperation in global issues like terrorism, trade talks, climate change and the trilateral dialogue between India, China and Russia.

Menon may also discuss the prospects of civilian nuclear cooperation between India and China, a member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

India has begun negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency to finalise a safeguards pact for its civilian nuclear reactors – a key step towards operationalising the nuclear deal.

After the IAEA pact, the NSG has to approve unanimously a change in its guidelines to clear civil global nuclear commerce with India. That’s where China’s crucial role come in as speculation continues about Beijing’s final stand in the NSG on the India deal.